When natural disasters damage power lines, tons of people all over the country are wondering, “What happens when the lights go out?” Whether it’s the big freeze in Texas that brought on a massive blackout, or the rolling power outages in California, one thing’s for certain: the power grid isn’t as reliable as we all might’ve hoped. And overhead power lines don’t make the situation any better. The U.S. has more power outages than any other developed nation due to our grid. Power lines are still very important for distributing electricity to consumers in the United States. However, recently, people have been forced to rely on alternative energy sources anyway once the power goes out.
But what will happen in the future to our power infrastructure, and what are our alternatives? Learn more about the faulty grid powering your home and discover a few alternative energy sources that could save the day.
Gridlocked By the Grid
Power is everything. We are in the midst of a technological revolution. Our technology sees advancements almost every few months, but not on the system that keeps our devices charged. In fact, smart technology has taken to doing the labor of energy conservation to minimize the strain placed on the grid and lower consumer utility bills.
But it’s more than that. We use the electrical grid to power our lives. It keeps the refrigerator running. We use it to keep central air circulating through our homes. And it washes our dishes and our clothes, along with much, much more. In today’s world, it is so important for the structure that provides us with electricity to be in pristine shape. Plot twist: it isn’t.
Well, what do we expect?
Out with the Old Power Infrastructure
In 2021, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. energy infrastructure a flopping C- and cited unreliability as one of the causes for the poor grade. The U.S. power structure can’t handle the massive amount of power consumption its populace demands from it. Also, it hurts the environment. Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues with the current power infrastructure.
Outdated and Outdone
The biggest problem the current grid and subsequent power lines have is that the entire structure is old. Most of the power lines we see today are over a century old, way past their 50-year life expectancy.
A Ghastly Sight
Above ground power lines are just plain ugly. The beaten up towers and the stringy cables litter the already cramped sky as society becomes even more advanced. Above ground power lines make the utility infrastructure more susceptible to damage. Just send a hefty gust of wind or a vengeful wildfire its way — thousands will lose power and millions of dollars will go up in smoke.
We already know the dangers of power plants with their harmful greenhouse gas emissions. It’s worthy to note that power lines emit low-frequency, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation (EMR). EMR can either be ionizing (harmful to the body) or non-ionizing. Power lines exhibit a much lower frequency than other EMRs, but many are still wary of the dangers of living close to them.
Dr. Gerald Draper confirmed fears with his 2005 study on childhood cancer in the U.K., discovering that children who lived closer to power lines did develop cancer. However, his studies didn’t report a causal role for the electromagnetic field. They were deemed flawed. In conclusion, studies have been inconclusive about whether or not there’s truly any harm by proximity to power lines. However, this is still something to consider.
A Costly Upgrade
A major contributor to recent power outages is the outdated grid and the assisting deteriorating power lines that we’re honestly surprised still work. This problematic team just can’t handle the growing demand we have for electricity.
One solution is to “harden” the grid. This is a lengthy process of evaluating the already-existing energy infrastructure. It will result in strengthening aboveground lines or burying power lines underground. But the answer isn’t this simple.
Although undergrounding drastically improves electric reliability, the issue is cost, according to a report from Edison Electric. It costs $1 million per mile to add in an underground line. This is ten times the cost of repairing and replacing an overhead line.
You must be wondering by now, “Aren’t there other sources of energy that don’t compromise your budget and the environment to keep the lights on?” Keep reading to find out.
What Are Alternative Energy Sources?
Traditional energy sources are produced through the burning of fossil fuels. This dirty energy is no longer serving the people who receive power from it or the planet itself. If climate anxiety has you down, rest assured knowing that alternative energy sources include renewables, such as solar, wind, and a bunch of other options. The truth of the matter is there’s more than one way to get your power.
Let’s check out the top 5 alternative energy sources that could replace power lines.
Top 5 Types of Alternative Energy Sources
While there are so many alternatives to fossil fuels, the energy sources below are today’s heavy hitters. And there are no newcomers to the group — the world has been using renewable energy in different ways for years.
Keep reading to find out more, or cut out the middle man and go solar. Contact one of our Solar Energy Specialists today and find your ultimate alternative.
Alternative #1 – Gone With the Wind
Here’s an alternative energy source that will surely blow your socks off. Wind power is a renewable energy available no matter where you reside and produces no carbon dioxide emissions. Energy is generated and harnessed by the movement of wind turbines.
Here are a few benefits of using wind energy as a power source:
- Doesn’t produce atmospheric pollutants
- Clean and renewable resource
- Wind turbines are built on existing farms and ranches
- Low cost to create and maintained and the cost is only getting lower
Wind energy is a clean power source that does not generate waste or emit toxins. It’s a great contender for alternative energy sources ready to power our world.
Alternative #2 – Hot Like Geothermal
Next up is geothermal energy, which literally means “heat from the Earth.” This sustainable energy source comes from the never-ending decay of radioactive isotopes. This process makes the Earth very hot. As a result, heat or steam can be captured and used directly or to generate electricity. Here’s how geothermal heat pumps work to keep your home cool when you need it most.
On a wide scale, this largely untapped alternative energy source could be used to heat almost anything.
Alternative #3 – Head Above Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectric power is currently the world’s largest renewables. The power of water generates a clean flow of renewable energy. There are three types of hydroelectric plants:
- Impoundment: a large hydroelectric facility that houses a dam that stores river water in a reservoir. From the reservoir, the water is spun through a turbine, where electricity is produced.
- Diversion: often referred to as “run-of-river” facility, this kind of hydropower uses the natural path of the river to produce energy with the flow of water. These stations are typically smaller in size
- Pumped storage: similar to a battery, this type of facility can house electricity for later use. They worked by pumping water from a reservoir at a lower elevation to a reservoir at a higher elevation and vice versa, depending on the demand for energy.
Other forms of hydroelectricity include wave energy and tidal energy. Just like their names, these forms of energy monitor the tides of the ocean and generate energy from the movement of waves. All of these introduce new ways to use water as a power source.
Alternative #4 – A Massive Bio
Biomass and biofuels made the list as alternative energy sources, but are lacking when it comes to their cleanliness. Biomass and biofuel energy come from the biological matter of plants and animals. Typically, biomass energy is harnessed through burning. Can you spot the problem?
Biomass energy is considered carbon-neutral, meaning it releases the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as plants. However, studies have shown that biomass-burning plants emit “150% the CO2 of coal, and 300 – 400% the CO2 of natural gas, per unit energy produced.” This option is far from being a truly green alternative, even if it’s technically renewable.
Alternative #5 – In With the Solar
For a consistently reliable alternative energy source that reduces your carbon footprint, solar is the way to go. Solar is the dazzling cousin to these other alternative energy sources. Curious about how solar panels work? Solar photovoltaics trap in the sunlight to convert it to electricity to power your home. An abundant resource for generating clean energy, solar has a host of environmental benefits — including a reduction in pollution.
When it comes to reliability, solar offers power outage protection through the use of solar panel batteries. This form of energy storage allows you to monitor your energy consumption and conservation efforts. Home solar can help with power outages, but also, it’s great to gain more independence from the grid. Massive solar panel installations already substitute power when the grid keeps failing.
Since solar is taking off, the cost of installation has dramatically decreased in recent years. There are so many financial incentives available to boost your budget in the form of net metering or the federal solar tax credit. It’s time to take your power back and truly enact climate change.
While there are many other alternative energy sources – can’t forget nuclear energy or hydrogen – shouldn’t the alternative be a renewable energy source? We need a strong alternative energy source to replace the overwhelmed grid and struggling power lines. Solar can handle the job and bring on so many economic benefits. As it stands, the solution to the grid should harness the bountiful renewable energy resources that this planet has to offer, like the sun.
Contact your local Solar Energy Specialist today and find out your options!