Energy is referred as the capacity of a body or a system to function or operate. The concept of energy is very common and widespread in all scientific fields. This however, explains the varied explanation and approach of the term ‘energy’ across various contexts such as physics, biology, and chemistry.
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In the context of this study, energy is the vitality or power that would be needed for sustained mental or physical functioning of various bodies. In other words, this is the indirectly observed quantity normally viewed as the ability of a physical body to function or operate normally.
As it would be observed, energy exists in numerous different forms, and these can be electrical, chemical, mechanical, radiant or light, and heat or thermal forms of energy. Energy is a fundamental part of modern life that plays a crucial role in almost every sector of human life. For instance, people use energy to make their work easier in various fields of operation, and to process things in a more convenient style.
More importantly, energy is used for lighting purposes and to power machinery as well as other significant equipment that makes life easier and more exciting for humans. There are many sources of energy, and this would range from renewable to non-renewable sources. While energy is crucial and beneficial to human life in many ways, it is nevertheless one of the major causes of the common global issues currently affecting the human nature.
A good example here is the combustion of fuels for the purpose of powering cars among other machineries and equipment, which is arguably one of the major activities having the biggest impact on the progressive issue of the global warming. Among other key concerns, the operations of the global energy sector have drawn incessant scrutiny from the global leaders as a result of the above reason.
Concerns about the issue of global warming, which is observed to be necessitated by the combustion of fossil fuels, has immensely contributed to the implementation of a number of strategies that would be applied in dealing with the problem. In this regard, a massive shift from the use of fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy appears to be the most effective step which can successfully implement this goal.
This plan aims at repowering America and the entire world with carbon-free forms of energy within the next one or so decade. The brains behind this plan have concluded that, there is a possibility of such a change if the necessary measures towards the plan where taken. Other big concerns that have had influential impact on the plan would include things such as high prices of oil, land use, the wildlife, global water supply, environmental pollution, and heightening government concerns.
The many implications that the generation and use of fossil fuels would tend to have on all the above aspects are likely to be minimized or even eradicate completely the effect of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, through the use of renewable forms of energy usually generated from water, wind and solar. It has been proven that the construction, operation and execution of renewable sources produces almost zero emissions of harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases, and this makes them safer over the non-renewable sources.
There is confidence that, the global energy systems can easily be transformed through widespread use of solar installations, wind turbines and water machines, which do not present emission of significant gases and other waste products. This could be an effective approach in eliminating the immense pollution associated with the non-renewable sources of energy used in modern transportation sector.
Renewable Sources of Energy
This normally refers to those sources of energy that are continually restored or replenished. What makes renewable sources of energy more reliable over non-renewable sources is the fact that, these forms of energy can be used as many times as they would be required.
As it would be observed, renewable sources of energy sustain a relatively high percentage of the overall human energy consumption. Many countries are gradually shifting to these forms of energy sources, considering the high costs and the many effects associated with non-renewable energy sources.
More importantly, there are many health and financial benefits that can be associated with renewable sources of energy, and this makes them the most preferred energy sources over non-renewable sources such as natural gas, coal and oil, which have continued to present immense social and health issues to the global population. Some of the common examples of renewable energy sources would include things like wind power, geothermal power, solar power, biomass power, and hydropower.
Non-Renewable Sources of Energy
These are energy sources that can be found on earth in limited capacity, and that are likely to become extinct within a specific period of time. Non-renewable energy sources would constitute of nuclear power, natural gas, coal, and oil.
Unlike the renewable sources, it is not easy to regenerate non-renewable sources of energy for human energy consumption whenever it is necessary. Non-renewable sources of energy are classified into two main groups namely; nuclear fuel and fossil fuels. Nuclear fuel is generated out of radioactive substances that do occur naturally.
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A good example of this classification is uranium which can be found in soil and rocks. These elements are transformed into energy through extraction and concentration, to produce fuel rods that can generate heat, when placed closed to each other. The heat is the form of energy here, and can be used to transform water into steam, thus producing electricity that can be used in different ways.
The above diagram illustrates the process by which nuclear fuel is generated from Uranium.
Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are energy in the form of fuels which can be extracted from the earth’s surface, where they are said to be generated through geological processes on dead matter. Examples of fossil fuels include materials such as natural gas and oil, which tend to undergo millions of years to form under the earth’s surface.
It is believed that, both gas and oil are generated from the remains of dead living things in the bottom of seas, which have been covered by layers of other sediments. According to study findings, it may take many millions of years for gas and oil to form under the earth’s surface, before they eventually sieve into the earth’s surface through porous rocks.
The diagram below illustrates how gas and oil are generated from the earth’s surface.
Overview of Various Resources of Renewable Energy
Wind energy is a form of energy whereby wind turbines are used to produce electricity for human consumption. Wind energy has been applied by humans for avery long time to perform various tasks, such pumping of water and winnowing of grains. Normally, wind turbines intended for generation of electricity are mounted on tall structures, where they can capture large masses of airflows needed to produce energy.
The power output in this resource would tend to increase as the speed of wind increases. In this regard, areas with constant and stronger winds are the most preferable sites for wind farms. Wind Power Turbines in the US are common in Alaska and New Zealand States, where the speed of wind is known to be higher than that of any other place in the country.
The global use of wind as a reliable source of energy has increased dramatically in the last few decades. Wind is not only one of the most attractive sources of energy, but it also among the cleanest sources of renewable energy, and for these reasons, it is the fastest advancing energy technology in the world. Wind energy supplies about one percent of the US electricity needs and this capacity is observed to be growing rapidly, owing to recent developments.
Advantages of Wind Energy Resources
- Wind is a clean source of energy i.e. it does not produce greenhouse gases or any other form of hazardous products that can be harmful to human and animal health.
- The energy is abundant and free to use.
- Wind turbines normally take minimal space compared to the normal power station, and therefore, it is land economical.
- Wind energy can be combined other sources of energy such as solar to provide a steady supply of energy in form of electricity.
- Wind energy is less costly compared to other forms of non-renewable energy which may need to be imported from foreign countries.
- Wind is a reliable source of energy for regions where wind is stronger and more constant.
- Wind is a relatively long-lasting source of energy for human energy needs and in that case, it is reliable and more convenient.
Disadvantages of Wind Energy Resources
- This form of energy is unreliable since winds are unpredictable in many regions.
- Construction and erection of wind turbines is obviously very expensive and time consuming.
- Many people are yet to give in to the idea of wind energy as an efficient source of energy, and for that reason, there would be amid protests against development of wind farms in some regions.
- Wind turbines can sometimes be very noisy, and in that case, they are not fit in residential areas.
- According to recent studies, wind turbines are observed to be among the largest killers of birds in many regions of the world, where they are applied.
This is the use of sunlight to generate electricity which can be used for lighting, heating, and cooling purposes in our homes. As it would be observed, solar energy, which comes from the sun, is a significant source of energy, since it influences all the other forms of renewable energy in a number of ways.
For instance, heat and light from the sun plays a crucial role in the growth of plants which can in turn be used for the generation of biomass energy. More importantly, solar heat also plays a key role in evaporation and precipitation cycles which are essential for the generation of hydropower.
A good example of popular solar energy resources is the Copper Mountain Solar Facility, situated in Nevada, near Boulder City. The facility caters for different energy needs in the area including lighting and heating purposes. A less percentage of solar energy is used to meet various energy needs in the contemporary world, compared to other renewable sources. However, this attitude is likely to take a different course, considering the rapid developments of efficient and reliable solar technologies.
Advantages of Solar Energy Resources
- Solar energy can be associated with minimal environmental impacts.
- Just like the wind power, solar energy is absolutely free.
- Solar systems are durable and they don’t require any form of maintenance or repair.
- Solar energy industry has created jobs for many people allover the world.
- Another impressive aspect about the solar energy sector is that, modern solar systems are designed for particular needs and this makes it a diverse source of energy in different areas of operation.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy Resources
- Solar energy has a high unreliability factor, since solar light is only available during the day.
- Solar energy is highly inefficiency since it produces minimal levels of electricity.
- Installation of solar energy systems can be costly, and this is one common limitation about the development of the systems in many parts of the world.
- Another outstanding limitation of solar energy is that, solar panels are bulky.
Water Energy/ Hydro Power
This is a form of energy which is generated by the powerful force of flowing water. Water flowing downstream is used to drive power wheels or turbines beneath the water surface to generate mechanical processes that are capable of producing electricity. Water is arguably the most common source of energy in most parts of the world, due to its efficient and reliability. Examples of major Hydro Powers include the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and The Grand Coulee Dam in Washington, USA.
Advantages of Hydro Power Resources
- Hydro Power is the least expensive source of energy for many people in the contemporary world.
- There is no air pollution or emission of greenhouse gases in Hydro Power generation.
- Storage of pumped hydro power energy is possible.
- Hydro Power has a high load factor compared with other energy resources.
- This source of energy is much reliable compared to other renewable energy resources.
- Hydro Power Plants are observed to have a relatively longer life compared to Nuclear Power Plants.
Disadvantages of Hydro Power Resources
- Construction of dams for Hydro Power generations has been linked increased earthquake vulnerability in some countries.
- Hydro Power comes with high risks of dam failure and/or tail risks.
- Fishes and wildlife are likely to be affected as a result of water and ecological destruction for purposes of hydroelectric generation.
- There is always a possibility of displacement and loss of livelihood for many people, as land is acquired for construction of Hydro Power stations.
- Construction of dams and Hydro Power stations is expensive.
This refers to the form of energy which is obtained from plant material. Biomass is either used for direct heating or burning of wood to generate electricity energy, or is converted into liquid fuels to cater for massive fuel needs in the transportation sector. Biomass power is observed to be the second important renewable energy source in the US. One of the major biomass plants in the US is the Tracey Biomass Plant, located in California.
This plant supplies for various energy needs in the region. It has been predicted that, growing and cultivation of high-yielding energy plants can significantly help in the development of biomass energy resources in the world. These, coupled with modern high-efficient technologies in the energy sector can supplement the global consumption of non-renewable forms of energy such as fossils, thus helping to address the progressive issue of global warming.
Advantages of Biomass Power Resources
- Biomass is a comparatively lesser polluting form of producing energy and fuel.
- Apart from energy, Biomass also provides manure for farming purposes.
- This is a much reliable and a relatively cheaper source of energy for home use.
- Biomass is renewable.
- Biomass is more cost effective compared to other sources of renewable and non-renewable energy.
- Growth of biomass plants helps in cleaning the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen to the air.
- There is a high potential to generate biomass energy in many parts of the world, since plant matter is readily available everywhere.
- This source of energy also plays a significant role in maintaining cleanliness as well as in reducing disposal costs in towns and villages.
Disadvantages of Biomass Power Resources
- Biomass is reserved for the rich, since the cost of erecting a biogas plant is relatively high.
- Biogas plants and residue normally produces bad smells, which may be uncomfortable to many people.
- Construction of biogas plants requires great expertise, and many biogas plants end up operating in an efficient way, due to improper construction.
- Constant supply of biomass is essential for continuous generation of energy.
- Transportation and storage of biomass power through pipe system over long distances is quite difficult.
- Storage of biogas energy in cylinders is not easy.
Geothermal Energy Resources
This is the production of heat and electricity using the natural sources of heat found within the earth’s surface. In most cases, geothermal energy is produced using hot water or steam erupting from the ground. Geothermal energy can also be obtained through drilling, whereby deep underground reservoirs are accessed for generation of energy.
There are various geothermal technologies that are currently in use in most parts of the world, and these would include; geothermal heat pumps, direct-use systems, and the use of deep reservoirs to generate energy in form of electricity. Utah Geothermal Plant, located in Beaver County is one of the oldest and popular geothermal plants in the US.
Advantages of Geothermal Energy Resources
- Geothermal energy significantly reduces reliance of fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources of energy.
- It is an effective way of saving energy costs.
- It generates clean energy which is free from pollution.
- This source of energy is associated with immense economic benefits, since it plays a crucial role in creation of employment opportunities.
- Geothermal energy is more efficient, since it can be used directly for home and office-related tasks.
Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy Resources
- Drilling of geothermal energy is often associated with hazardous and poisonous gases.
- Most of the geothermal plants are far from specific areas such as big cities and town, where it is highly needed.
- Steam power installation is expensive and costly.
- Generation of geothermal energy is obviously too small to cater for energy needs of the people in the surrounding regions.
- Among other hazardous risks, generation of geothermal energy is known to pose serious dangers of volcano eruptions.