Solar energy is often called an ‘alternative energy,’ a designation that underscores its departure from conventional power sources (even though all fuel sources on earth originate from the sun).
Solar energy is an ‘alternative’ to fossil fuels, even though:
Then why is solar the alternative and not the standard? Most of this we’ve already covered in the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, but essentially, it’s the cost of solar panels.
What about other renewable energy sources besides solar?
Wind is great, and is currently cheaper on per kWh basis than solar electricity, but it also has some major problems. First, (generally speaking) wind is only economical in large energy farms. Small home turbines are expensive and don’t produce enough power to be financially viable. Wind farms have their own issues, like land use, transmission, and aesthetics. Some reports have indicated that a network of wind turbines in specific areas, like the central plains states of the US, could easily supply several times current energy consumption.
Geothermal is also economical, reliable, and sustainable, but is generally limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Geothermal energy is not completely emissions free, as some greenhouse gases are emitted during production (much lower per unit than fossil fuels). Some reports have suggested that geothermal energy could supply 100% of the world’s energy needs; at the very least is is a largely untapped resource.