What is Alternative Energy Technology?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Alternative energy technology is technology which is connected with the generation, storage, or transmission of alternative energy. A number of governments began investing heavily in alternative energy technology at the turn of the 21st century, recognizing that such technology could become critical to meet the needs of a rapidly changing society. The use of alternative energy can reduce the demand on the electrical grid, lower emissions, and reduce demand for nonrenewable fossil fuels like coal and gasoline.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

There are a number of areas of interest within the alternative energy technology field. One of the biggest is generation. Once basic technology to generate energy is developed, companies can start working on refining that technology to make it more efficient, as efficiency is king when it comes to energy generation. Such refinements can include radical reworkings of existing systems in addition to completely new energy generation techniques which use novel ideas to push energy generation in new directions. Efficiency can always be improved, making systems better and better in addition to more cost effective and therefore appealing to run.

Storage is also an area of interest and concern. Despite the fact that people need a lot of energy, they haven't come up with very many good ways to store energy, instead relying on on-demand transmission. Storage is often inefficient, causing energy loss, and long term storage in particular is not very viable. A number of companies have attempted to explore new ways to store energy, because stored energy could create a buffer which would reduce overloads on the grid and allow for a rethinking of the way electricity is allocated.

Hand in hand with storage is transmission of alternative energy, whether directly from a generation facility to a consumer or to a storage facility. Transmission is another area in which inefficiency can occur, with inefficiency tending to increase the further the energy has to be moved. This is a big problem with alternative energy, where it may make sense to establish generation facilities in remote locations, for a variety of reasons, except that these locations represent a serious hurdle to efficient transmission.

Numerous educational institutions offer coursework in alternative energy technology, for people who are interested in working in this field. People can also enter this field by training in engineering and related fields and working for energy companies which are developing alternative solutions to traditional energy. Some also work within larger conventional energy companies which have created divisions to explore alternative energy options and develop new alternative energy technology.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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