KIDS GUIDE TO sun5.gif (2244 bytes) SUMMER SCIENCE                                                                        

Advancing Other Energetic Theories:

        From crashing ocean waves to the biochemistry of pond scum, the list of possible alternative energy sources sometimes seems almost infinite. Of course, possible doesn't mean practicle. Many alternative energy possibilities never go anywhere. Here is an update on four that have generated headlines, if not always results.

       Biomass: The basic idea is to burn organic stuff like wood chips or crop residues to produce electricity. Results have been mixed. Biomass accounts for 43 percent of the renewable energy used in the United States, but overall, it represents just one percent of U.S electrical generating capacity.

       Wind: Impressive technical improvments in giant wind turbines have reduced wind power costs, making it cheaper to buy wind generated electricity. Wind power contributes less than 2 percent of the nation's total energy, but deregulation and lower costs have produced an invigorating breeze of activity among electric companies marketing the environmental benefits of " green power."

        Geothermal: parts of the earth positively burble with heat and energy, and in those places folks have learned to take advantage. California is an excellent example, producing about half the world's geothermally generated electricity-- or enough for about 2 million homes.

        Cold Fusion: The idea was fantastic: Through a simple electrochemical reaction akin to processes occuring in the sun, heat could be derived from something as simple as water. Such energy would be abundant and essentially free. The world's energy problems would vanish. That was the promise of two University of Utah researchers in 1989, but it did not hold true. Other scientists could not duplicate their alleged feat and it ws the Utah scientists who eventually vanished. A handful of researchers still pursue the promise, but the idea of nuclear fusion in a jar has pretty much gone cold.