Energy is the capacity to do work or to produce heat. Energy is an integral part of our daily lives. Without energy our society would decay into pre-historic savagery. Our current energy source is mainly from fossil fuels, but new means of energy production and innovative ways to use less energy must be discovered.
The forms of energy that are used in industry frequently are: 4Electricity 4Biomass energy- energy from plants (renewable) 4Geothermal energy (renewable) 4Fossil fuels-Coal, oil and natural gas 4Hydro Power and Ocean Energy (renewable) 4Nuclear Energy (renewable) 4Solar Energy (renewable) 4Wind Energy (renewable) 4Transportation Energy (renewable)
All energy sources have some desirable characteristics for different purposes. Desirable characteristics of energy resources are simply as follows : Many sources release energy by taking part in reactions which move to lower energy states. Many sources release energy at reasonable rates (neither too fast nor too small) They should be easily accessible. If possible, their use should be detrimental to the environment. They should be cheap and plentiful.
ELECTRICITY Is one of the basic forms of energy. Electricity is associated with electric charge, a property of certain elementary particles such as electrons and protons, two of the basic particles that make up the atoms of all ordinary matter. Electric charges can be stationary, as in static electricity, or moving, as in an electric current.
Electricity is an extremely versatile form of energy. It can be generated in many ways and from many different sources.It can be sent almost instantaneously over long distances. Electricity can also be converted efficiently into other forms of energy,and it can be stored. Because of this versatility, electricity plays a part in nearly every aspect of modern technology. Electricity provides light, heat, and mechanical power. It makes telephones, computers, televisions, and countless other necessities and luxuries possible.
BIOMASS ENERGY Biomass, defined as all land and water based vegetation as well as all organic wastes, fulfilled almost all of humankind's energy needs prior to the industrial revolution. All biomass is produced by green plants converting sunlight into plant material through photosynthesis. Since the industrial revolution, the majority of the developed world's energy requirements have been met by the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Biomass, however, is still the predominant form of energy used by people in the less developed countries, accounting for 14% of world energy use.
Biomass currently supplies 14% of the world's energy needs, but has the theoretical potential to supply 100%. Most present day production and use of biomass for energy is carried out in a very unsustainable manner with a great many negative environmental consequences. If biomass is to supply a greater proportion of the world's energy needs in the future, the challenge will be to produce biomass sustainably and to convert and use it without harming the natural environment. Technologies and processes exist today which, if used properly, make biomass based fuels less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels. Applying these technologies and processes on a site specific basis in order to minimize negative environmental impacts is a prerequisite for sustainable use of biomass energy in the future.
FOSSIL FUELS We'll probably run out of fossil fuels first. During the 20th century, energy has become more easily available, especially from fossil fuels. Not only do countries depend on burning fossil fuels to generate electricity but they are used in vehicles. Each year, more oil, coal and natural gas are found. In 1960, 40 billion tons of oil and gas were known to exist. At that rate they were being used across the world, the reserve was estimated to last about 40 years. By 1990, more gas and oil had been discovered (estimated about 142 billion tons of known reserves), but the rate at which it was used had also increased. Estimates of reserves are said to last between 40 and 70 years at the rate of current use.
The developed nations of the world use fossil fuels at an incredible rate, mostly for transportation and to generate electricity. Nuclear power is being used in increasing amounts to help satisfy the huge demand for energy. The nuclear fuels could last many hundreds of years, even if demand increases. There are disadvantages and advantages to both types of fuel: Fossil fuels are cheap and they are relatively easy to obtain. Once burned, however, fossil fuels cannot be used again, and they release gases such as carbon dioxide into the air. After fission occurs, the "spent" fuel stays dangerously radioactive for thousands of years and must be buried deep underground or at sea. This nuclear waste is a health risk and problem. It's expensive and it can also be the cause of harmful accidents.
GEOTHERMAL ENERGY The center of the earth is made up of rock so hot that it's melted. This heat sometimes makes underground water boil. When this hot water of steam comes up through a crack in the earth, we call it a geyser. When the steam is used to generate electricity,it's called geothermal energy. It is one of the major alternative sources. Although this energy type is not frequently used,in the last few years some cities are started to be heated with this underground energy. Only disadvantage of it is that it is hard to use this underground water as it contains limestone.
Producing geothermal electricity from the earth's crust tends to be localized. That means facilities have to be built where geothermal energy is abundant. In the course of geothermal production, steam coming from the ground becomes very caustic at times, causing pipes to corrode and fall apart. Geothermal power plants sometimes cost a little bit more than a gas-fired power plant because they have to include the cost to drill.
HYDRO POWER& OCEAN ENERGY Moving or falling water can be used to make electricity, called hydro power. The water turns wheels that run machines called turbines and generators. These machines use the moving water to make electricity. Hydroelectric power (dams) provide a lot of electricity for the world, however you can't dam all the rivers because that causes environmental problems. Also renewable resources such as wind and geothermal are limited to certain regions of world. They're not found everywhere and even though wind does blow everywhere but it's not at the constant speed you need to make it worthwhile to build wind turbines.
NUCLEAR ENERGY A nuclear power plant produces the energy for 20% of our homes. Nuclear power plants do not release dangerous fumes (like CO 2, smoke or other gases) during normal operation, however after fission occurs, the "spent" fuel stays dangerously radioactive for thousands of years and must be buried deep underground or at sea. This nuclear waste is a health risk and problem. It's expensive and it can also be the cause of harmful accidents. California's law prohibits construction of any new nuclear power plants until the radioactive wastes are eliminated.
WIND ENERGY Wind turbines capture the wind's energy with two or three propeller-like blades, which are mounted on a rotor, to generate electricity. The turbines sit high atop towers, taking advantage of the stronger and less turbulent wind at 100 feet (30 meters) or more aboveground. Wind energy uses the energy in the wind for practical purposes like generating electricity, charging batteries, pumping water, or grinding grain. Large, modern wind turbines operate together in wind farms to produce electricity for utilities. Small turbines are used by homeowners and remote villages to help meet energy needs.
Wind power development too, has its downside, mostly involving land use. The average wind farm requires 17 acres of land to produce one megawatt of electricity, about enough electricity for 750 to 1,000 homes. However, farms and cattle grazing can use the same land under the wind turbines. Wind farms could cause erosion in desert areas. Most often, winds farms affect the natural view because they tend to be located on or just below ridgelines. Bird deaths also occur due to collisions with wind turbines and associated wires.
SOLAR ENERGY The sun warms the earth and gives us light. The sun's energy can be captured and used directly in a solar cell, or changed into steam for making electricity, heating homes or heating water. Solar thermal energy involving the collection of solar rays through collectors (often times huge mirrors) need large tracts of land as a collection site. This impacts the natural habitat, meaning the plants and animals that live there. The environment is also impacted when the buildings, roads, transmission lines and transformers are built. The fluid most often used with solar thermal electric generation is very toxic and spills can happen.
There are several reasons why these renewable resources are not being used to their full potential. The main reason is money. Solar, wind, geothermal and tidal cost more than fossil fuels. It's not the fuel that costs more since that's almost free. It's the cost to build the equipment such as the wind turbines or solar panels that cost more. Natural gas, coal and oil are cheap and in most cases, the power plants that generate the electricity are already paid for. Most utilities don't want to invest in the extra costs because the rate payers don't want to pay more for their electricity or for the products they get that are made by factories that buy the electricity from the utilities.