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What is alternative energy?

Renewable - A renewable energy source is defined as any energy source that is replenishable and replenished on some reasonable time scale. Renewable energy sources include, but are not limited to wind, solar, heat from the earth's interior, oceans, rivers, and biomass. Renewable material sources include, but are not limited to wood; grass fibers, plant-based plastics, fuels and 100 percent recycled content metals, papers, plastics and glass.

Sustainability - There are hundreds of definitions of sustainability and sustainable development, but the best known is the one first coined by the United Nation's World Commission on Environment and Development. It suggests that development is sustainable where it "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Source: Sustainable Research Group (Grand Rapids, MI)

Energy Efficiency

A critical first step in the move toward alternative energy is energy efficiency which is considered the most cost effective form of renewable energy. Critical to understanding energy efficiency is understanding how we use energy in our homes and offices. An energy audit can help to identify effective measures to save money and the environment while making buildings safer and more comfortable. Planning and designing new buildings to meet higher standards, such as ENERGY STAR, LEED, and Green Built Standards ensures that they will be ready to meet rising energy costs in the future.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Hydrogen fuel cells can transform the way the world uses energy. Fuel cells generate electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen with only water as a by-product. They can power everything from laptop computers to automobiles. While at least a decade remains before they can easily be incorporated into everyday life, the promise of zero emissions and increased fuel efficiency makes hydrogen fuel cells worth the wait.

Alternative Fuels

Alternative FuelsAlternative fuels also known as non-conventional fuels, are any materials or substances that can be used as a fuel, other than conventional fuels. Conventional fuels include: fossil fuels (petroleum (oil), coal, propane, and natural gas), and nuclear materials such as uranium.  Some well known alternative fuels include biodiesel, bioalcohol (methanol, ethanol, butanol), chemically stored electricity (batteries and fuel cells), hydrogen, non-fossil methane, non-fossil natural gas, vegetable oil and other biomass sources.


Geothermal Technologies uses natural heat from the earth to heat and cool buildings. This clean and sustainable Technologies reduces emissions and operating costs.  In Michigan, numerous homes, businesses and educational buildings use geothermal heat pumps


Wind Turbine

A wind energy system transforms the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical or electrical energy that can be harnessed for practical use.  Mechanical energy is most commonly used for pumping water in rural or remote locations--the "farm windmill" still seen in many rural areas of the U.S. is a mechanical wind pumper--but it can also be used for many other purposes (grinding grain, sawing, pushing a sailboat, etc).  Wind electric turbines generate electricity for homes and businesses and for sale to utilities.


Solar energy is a kind of renewable energy that comes in the form of radiation from the sun. Everyday, millions upon millions of watts of power reach the earth's surface. Much of this energy is used to heat our planet, but up to a third is wasted, reflected back out to space. In fact, each meter of the earth's surface during a sunny day receives about 1,000 kilowatts of energy, more than enough energy to power a home or office. It is estimated that solar energy is so abundant, that in just 20 days, all the solar energy that reaches the earth exceeds that of the energy that can be produced by all the oil, coal and gas in the earth's crust.


Biomass, as a renewable energy source, refers to living and recently dead biological material that can be used as fuel or for industrial production. In this context, biomass refers to plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce biofuel, and it also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibers, chemicals or heat. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It excludes organic material which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.



Alternative Energy Engineering Technologies Program at Lansing Community College

Design and Construction Technologies
West Campus, Room M103
Phone: (517) 483-5338
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