Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Renewable Energy Alternatives

Both the scientific community and everyday people around the globe are diligently looking for alternatives to the fossil fuels that have driven the world's energy needs for hundreds of years.

Everyone knows that those fuels are nonrenewable and send tons of pollutants into the earth's fragile atmosphere every second. Everyone also knows that we simply cannot go on this way—but what can you do to try to cut yourself loose from the energy trap that has kept us in its grips for centuries? It's a question more and more Americans are asking themselves every day. Here's a basic primer on the alternatives that are available.

First, you can use solar energy to heat your home and provide hot water for household use. It can also be used to generate electricity via photovoltaic cells. The technology is constantly improving and it's possible that recent breakthroughs in electricity generation will both increase the efficiency of photovoltaics and bring down the cost of the electricity they produce.

Wind power is becoming an increasingly important source of electricity in Iowa, Texas, and California, which lead the nation in wind energy generation, but nearly all states are investigating the possibility of adding wind generated power to their arsenal. There are also house-sized units available, and as the demand for them grows, they'll continue to come down in price per unit and in installation cost.

Other forms of energy are less accessible to the average homeowner, but you can use mass-produced forms, such as ethanol, E85, or soy-based diesel fuel in your vehicle to cut down on fossil fuels and to lessen the amount of pollution you contribute to the environment.

Hydrogen fuel cells are still in the experimental stages, but many experts continue to insist that they'll eventually represent the wave of the future in powering our vehicles. Time will tell, but the point is that you can take advantage of alternative fuels right now without waiting to see what happens on the hydrogen front.

Another important plus for turning toward alternative fuel sources is that there are sometimes significant tax breaks to be obtained for converting all or part of your home to something other than traditional fossil fuel-based energy sources.

Regardless of which alternative energy source appeals to you, before you begin shopping, take some time to look into possible tax incentives that may help offset a portion of their initial cost.

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