Alternative energy sources are those that produce energy without the damaging or harmful by-products common when burning fossil fuels. The most common alternative energy sources are wind power, hydro power, and solar power, though other types of energy sources do exist that fall under the umbrella term of alternative energy. The point of seeking out such sources is to combat conditions such as climate change, also known as global warming, and to replace energy sources that may eventually dry up or otherwise run out. Part of the problem with alternative energy sources is the ability to cultivate that energy at an affordable price.
Wind power is perhaps one of the more popular alternative energy sources. Energy can be created through the use of large wind towers that feature blades which turn in the wind. The turning blades can power an energy cell, and that power can then be transferred to the general power grid. In most cases, these wind towers need to be in wide open areas so enough wind can reach the blades; nearby residents sometimes complain about the noise created by the towers, as well as the aesthetic appeal, or lack thereof, of a wind farm. Proponents say this clean energy source is a viable option for creating high levels of energy, but the cost of transferring that energy to the power grid can be expensive.
Solar power uses the sun's rays to create energy. Like other alternative energy sources, solar power is a very clean source of energy, but again, the cost of harvesting the sun's rays can be high. Solar panels are necessary to accomplish this task, and while these panels tend to be fairly efficient, they are difficult to install properly and the materials are fairly expensive. Installing solar panels on a private residence can be cost-prohibitive, even if the system ends up saving the homeowner money in the long run. The up-front costs are usually enough to discourage homeowners.
Hydroelectric power involves the use of running water to create energy. Dams are very often built on rivers and other waterways to create alternative energy sources to power cities and towns. This is a great energy source because the flow of water is endless in most cases, but damming a river or stream can lead to ecosystem problems along the waterway. Fish and other wildlife in a river may be disrupted, and soil erosion problems are common. Dams are also expensive to build and maintain.