Sources of Energy
We get energy to powere our homes, cars, workplaces etc. from many different places. We also use many different techniques and technologies to harness this energy.
Below is a brief introduction to the most widely used sources of energy. For more information on any of the topics below, please visit the links to the right of this page. There's so much to find out!
Coal has been used as a fuel source for hundreds of years. As a fossil fuel, coal forms when dead plant matter is converted into peat, which in turn is converted into lignite, then coal. This involves biological and geological processes that take place over a long period. The rocks produced can be burned to produce energy in the form of heat.
Solar energy is energy from the suns rays. Without solar energy, all life on earth would end. Harnessing and concentrating the suns rays can produce heat and light energy. One simple example to illustrate this is using a magnifying glass to harness the suns rays and concentrate them onto a piece of paper. After a short while the paper will ignite and burn. This is the principle of solar panels we see in our buildings etc. The panels harness the rays from the sun and store the energy they produce for when we need to use it.
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provided about 5.7% of the world's energy and 13% of the world's electricity, in 2012. In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is either a nuclear reaction or a radioactive decay process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts, often producing free neutrons and photons (in the form of gamma rays), and releasing a very large amount of energy.
Water, which comes from the atmosphere as rain, is converted into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen, which is an energy carrier and fuel, is then transported to where energy is needed and at the point of use the hydrogen combines with atmospheric oxygen to form water which returns to the atmosphere as water vapour. The exchange of water and oxygen via the atmosphere is always in balance and there is no pollution.
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using wind turbines to make electrical power, windmills for mechanical power, wind pumps for water pumping or drainage, or sails to propel ships. Humans have been harnessing the power of the wind for thousands of years. Its a clean energy resource although there has been some controversy over the placement of wind turbines in rural areas. Some say, they ruin the natural landscape for minimal energy production.
Biomass is biological material taken from living, or recently living organisms. In the context of biomass for energy this is often used to mean plant based material, but biomass can equally apply to both animal and vegetable derived material. Biomass fuels are similar in structue to that of fossil fuels.
It's clean and sustainable. Resources of geothermal energy range from the shallow ground to hot water and hot rock found a few miles beneath the Earth's surface, and down even deeper to the extremely high temperatures of molten rock called magma.
Flowing water creates energy that can be captured and turned into electricity. This is called hydroelectric power or hydropower. The most common type of hydroelectric power plant uses a dam on a river to store water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. But hydroelectric power doesn't necessarily require a large dam. Some hydroelectric power plants just use a small canal to channel the river water through a turbine.
Petroleum, along with oil and coal, is classified as a fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are formed when sea plants and animals die, and the remains become buried under several thousand feet of silt, sand or mud. Fossil fuels take millions of years to form and therefore petroleum is also considered to be a non-renewable energy source.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel formed when layers of buried plants and animals are exposed to intense heat and pressure over thousands of years. The energy that the plants and animals originally obtained from the sun is stored in the form of carbon in natural gas.