Everything you need to know about alternative energy

In many parts of the world it is assumed that simply flipping a switch turns on a light, washing machine, television or computer. But not all places are the same. In most developing countries, the demand for energy is increasing, causing continuous blackouts or even complete cessation of supply.
All feeds are intermittent, to a greater or lesser degree. But by its nature, renewable energy generation swings between two extremes: either it generates too much or not enough to meet demand.
Although some 176 countries now have a clean energy policy, the world is still heavily dependent on oil, gas and coal. They are all fossil fuels that UN environmental scientists believe will have "serious, widespread and irreversible impacts on people and ecosystems" if something is not done to change it.

For this reason, work is being done on how to improve energy storage that can later be used when there are these imbalances between electricity supply and demand. This is how alternative or clean energies are born.

This topic delves into the Master's Degree in Engineering from EIA University.

What are alternative energies?

Alternative energy stands for clean energy, green energy or renewable energy. All those that come from natural resources and inexhaustible sources are considered alternatives, all those that, once produced, do not contaminate.

Types of alternative energy

There are different types of renewable energy. We can obtain energy in many ways, just transform it, in this case, into electricity. In nature we can find a variety of inexhaustible sources from which to extract energy, such as wind, water or the sun, among others.

Solar power
Through solar panels, solar radiation is absorbed and transformed into electrical energy which can be stored or transferred to the electricity grid, it is the simplest form of electrical self-consumption for people to implement. Then there is solar thermoelectric, i.e. the one that uses solar radiation to heat a fluid (which can be water), to generate steam and drive a turbine that generates electricity.
Wind energy
Windmills are found in so-called wind farms and are connected to electricity generators which transform the energy produced when the wind turns its blades.
Hydroelectric energy
Hydroelectric or hydraulic energy is another of the best known alternative energies in our country. It exploits the force of the water in its course to generate electricity and is normally produced in dams.
This alternative energy is one of the cheapest and most environmentally friendly ways to generate electricity in a thermal power plant. It consists in the combustion of organic waste of animal and vegetable origin. With a biodegradable product, such as sawdust and bark, it is possible to press a fuel that lights the fire like a ??, being the coal replaceable by this product and, on a large scale, being able to be used for the production of renewable energy.
Biogas is an alternative energy produced by the biodegradation of organic matter, through microorganisms, in special oxygen-free devices, thus generating a combustible gas such as methane and CO2 which is used as an energy source.
energy from the sea
Tidal or wave power, depending on whether you use tidal or wave power, is the production of (electrical) energy by using the movement of water to transform its kinetic or motion energy into electrical energy.
Geothermal energy
It is the one that exploits the high temperatures of the deposits under the earth's surface (usually volcanic) for the generation of energy through heat, since they are usually at 100 or 150 degrees Celsius.

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Success stories of alternative energy in Colombia

Some examples of the successful use of alternative energies in Colombia:

  1. In the village of Palmor in Ciénaga, Magdalena, a micro hydroelectric plant located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta uses an initial power of 150 kilowatts, sufficient to meet the energy needs of this population of just over 500 families. The work has been in operation for 25 years with an important added value: the maintenance, administration and operation of the infrastructure are taken care of by the community itself. In 2016, they finished the modernization of the micro power plant, thus doubling its capacity with state-of-the-art technology. That will give it a useful life of another 30 to 40 years in this city that grows hand in hand with "special" Colombian coffee.
  2. A Supia, Caldas, they use coffee to replace coal as a clean fuel for drying bricks. The peel of the bean has been very good at this process, and incidentally it helps the coffee industry – even if many don't know it, one of the most polluting – to dispose of its waste. In this way, the furnaces reduce their CO2 emissions and, of course, their coal bill. This is energy efficiency that translates into real and measurable savings.
  3. A water pumping project in La Guajira uses solar panels and bicycle pumps allowing thousands of Wayúu indigenous people to enjoy easy and healthy access to the precious liquid, so scarce in the department.
  4. In some furnaces of the countrys The ovens have been modified (from beehive to tunnel) to reduce CO2 emissions, which has improved productivity and generated employment in the departments of Boyacá, Caldas and Cundinamarca.
  5. Textile factories in Medellin They bet on energy efficiency through boiler monitoring and control systems, which allow cleaner production processes. Not only do they pollute less, but in some cases they have complied with international environmental standards, which make the garments made in Colombia, already coveted for their quality, a higher added value.
New alternative energy sources

The current energy needs have made countries, their institutions and experts create new ways to produce fuel and electricity necessary for the daily life of their inhabitants to develop smoothly. The latest examples are:

  1. Kinetic energy from passers-by
    The more than 250,000 commuters who step on the tiles of Stockholm Central Station every day generate heat from their footsteps, and a Swedish ventilation company uses that heat to heat the building directly opposite the station. Thanks to a system that allows the recovery of heat, this is transformed into hot water and allows the building located just opposite to save up to 25% of its energy through the ventilation system of the subway itself.
    In addition, there are night clubs in different parts of the world - from Holland to Japan - where the customers' dance steps allow electricity to be generated. The Dutch company Energy Floors is one of the leaders in this market, which is also attended by several Chinese companies. It works like this: with the movement of people's feet, LEDs on the dance floor light up and act as a lighting system.
    There are also some pedestrian crossings that allow the passage of pedestrians to be converted into electricity. The system was patented by the British company Pavegen and was used in the 2012 London Olympics. The idea is to be able to use it for the city's electrical systems, such as advertising panels or traffic lights.
  2. The clean energy of crematory ovens
    Cremation can also be used as a source of sustainable energy and has been around for about five years. It also began in Sweden, in the crematorium of a small town, Halmstad, when it was established after an environmental investigation that it polluted too much. It soon became a new possibility for renewable energy in different parts of the world, such as the UK and Denmark.
    The goal is to recycle the heat given off by the ovens and exploit its energy.
    Dr John Troyer, deputy director of the Center for Death and Society (CDAS) at the University of Bath, UK, told BBC Mundo that this process is known as 'heat capture' and that what is being used is the energy that comes from the gas, and not that of the corpse.
    In Redditch, a town in the English county of Worcestershire, that heat allows you to heat a public swimming pool. The project received a Green Apple award for environmental practices in May 2013, shortly before it went into operation.
    And in Austria there are offices that draw light from the same energy source.
  3. Waste that turns into energy
    Waste can also be transformed into an attractive form of renewable energy.
    This system already works in several provinces of Uruguay and in European countries such as Norway, where it has been so effective that it has also imported waste from other countries.
    "It minimizes environmental impacts, through the control and treatment of liquid and gaseous emissions," said the Sanitary and Environmental Engineering Division of the Municipality of Maldonado, Uruguay, where they ensure they get about 1,500 megawatts per hour every year thanks to this system.
    When the components are reduced to liquid and biogas (consisting of 50% methane gas), it is possible to transform them into reusable energy. That same methane gas is used by a city on the shores of Lake Kivu, between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a natural gas plant has been built, a project by the American company Contour Global. The Rwandan government hopes to increase the number of households connected to electricity with this initiative.
  4. The energy of algae and jellyfish
    Inside the sea we can find other unexpected sources of energy, such as jellyfish. These curious marine creatures emit a green protein (GDP) which allows them to generate fluorescent light. A group of scientists from the Chalmer University of Technology in Sweden is studying this type of protein to create a photovoltaic device that can be used in solar energy and which allows to lower the costs that this type of plant requires. They are also studying how to create mechanical floating devices that use this source of biotechnology.
  5. Coffee, chocolate and other natural fuels
    British entrepreneur Arthur Kay is one of the latest players in the clean fuel movement and wants London's iconic tour buses to fill their engines with coffee. Kay runs a company, Biobean, which uses ?? The cisco, or gravel? For us it is more understandable than the coffee of the large international chains of coffee shops, such as Costa Café, and turns them into a kind of petrol. In cities like London, where clean air quality is vital, this idea could prove vital to the health of many citizens. Other options that have been tried are chocolate (in places like Warwick, England) or sewage (in Spain).
    Finding alternative sources that make it possible to protect the environment by collaborating with the positive evolution of societies is essential to be able to grow sustainably and that future generations do not depend on energy sources that damage their environment.
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The Master in Engineering VIA It is an interdisciplinary program, oriented towards the integration of theories, methods, tools and, in general, concepts from different engineering disciplines. Learn all about registration and membership here.

● Juan Daniel Correa Salazar. September 01, 2016. "Colombia Clean Energy Success Stories." Week. https://sostenibilidad.semana.com/medio-ambiente/articulo/energias-ternatives-en-colombia/35965
● April 12, 2018. "Innovative solutions to generate more and better renewable energy sources on the planet". BBC. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-43712276
● June 26, 2017. "5 surprising sources of clean energy that you may not have known".
●BBC. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-40404632
● December 13, 2016. "Alternative energies: what they are and what types exist". Energy factor blog. https://www.factorenergia.com/es/blog/energy-efficiency/what-are-alternative-energies/#:~:text=Energ%C3%ADa%20Alternative%20es%20un%20sin%C3%B3nimo, %2C%20a%20produce them%2C%20they don't%20contaminate.

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