Saturday, April 7, 2012

Renewable and Non-renewable Energy Sources

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Renewable and Non-renewable Energy Sources

Energy resources can be described as renewable and non-renewable. Renewable energy sources are those which are continually being replaced such as energy from the sun (solar) and wind. If an energy resource is being used faster than it can be replaced (for example, coal takes millions of years to form) then it will eventually run out. This is called a non-renewable energy source.

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Renewable energy sources

Solar Power

Solar energy is light and heat energy from the sun. Solar cells convert sunlight into electrical energy. Thermal collectors convert sunlight into heat energy. Solar power is used in watches, calculators, water pumps, space satellites, for heating water, and supplying clean electricity to the power grid. There is enough solar radiation falling on the surface of the earth to provide all of our energy needs.

Advantages and Disadvantages

- There is enough solar radiation falling on the earth to provide for all of our energy needs.

- It is a lot cleaner than using fossil fuels and does not harm the environment.

- It is good to use for heating water (Solar thermal electric generating plants)

- Solar power does not store or travel well. It looses a lot of energy when done so.

- At the moment, solar power is more expensive than using fossil fuelled power stations.

- Solar power would only be effective in some places in the world. It would not be effective in e.g. London, UK. But it would be effective in somewhere e.g. Australia.

Wind energy

Moving air turns the blades of large windmills or generators to make electricity, or to pump water out of the ground. A high wind speed is needed to power wind generators effectively.

Wind pumps and generators have been used in remote areas of Australia and in other countries around the world for many years. More recently, wind turbo-generators on wind farms have been providing electricity for cities and towns in more than a dozen countries.

Advantages and Disadvantages

- They do not produce any greenhouse gas emissions.

- They are sometimes considered as tourist attractions.

- They cause vibrations, noise and visual pollution.

- It costs more to produce than electricity generated from coal.

- A large wind turbo generator needs a minimum annual average windspeed of about 5 km/h.

- Sites need to be clear of tall vegetation and are often on prominent hills and headlands or in coastal areas.

- Wind farms can be a danger to migrating birds flying at night and can cause TV and radio interference in nearby homes.

- Sometimes are said to spoil the scenery.

Hydroelectric energy

Hydroelectricity is produced from falling water. The movement of the water spins turbines that generate electricity. Places with high rainfall and steep mountains are ideal for hydroelectricity. Canada, Brazil and New Zealand produce most of their electricity this way.

Advantages and Disadvantages

- Doesn't cause pollution

- Does not need to be entirely built always

- Locations where there is melting snow e.g. New South Wales can be used

- Ecosystems may be destroyed

- Cultural sites may be flooded and sometimes people need to be resettled

- Impacts on fish breeding

- Loss of wildlife habitat

- Changes in water flow of rivers

- Can be expensive because it sometimes requires the building of large dams on rivers

- When large damns are built large areas of land are flooded, including wildlife habitats and farming land

Non-renewable energy sources


Coal is a fossil fuel formed over millions of years from decomposing plants and animals. Coal is mainly burned in power stations to make electricity and as a source of heat for industry. When coal is burned it produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, one of the gases responsible for the enhanced greenhouse effect (the increase in the worlds temperature due to the increased insulating effect of the earths atmosphere).

Advantages and Disadvantages

- It is a relatively cheap source of energy

- Electricity supply is reliable

- Coal is not a renewable resource

- During the production of electricity carbon dioxide is released, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

- Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide are also produced and can produce acid rain

- Mining coal damages the environment

- Coal-fired power stations create thermal pollution, i.e. increasing the temperature of an environment above natural levels creating a potential hazard to ecosystems


Petroleum, or crude oil, is formed in a similar way to coal. But instead of becoming a rock, it became a liquid trapped between layers of rocks. It can be made into gas, petrol, kerosene, diesel fuel, oils and bitumen.

Advantages and Disadvantages

- Used for heating and cooking

- Used in factories as a source of heat energy

- Used in power stations and to provide fuel for transport

- Producing petrochemicals such as plastics produces large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, produces and other poisonous gases that may harm the environment and peoples health


Gas is made in the same way as petroleum and is also trapped between layers of rock. Natural gas is tapped, compressed and piped into homes to be used in stoves and hot water systems. LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) is made from crude oil.

Advantages and Disadvantages

- Used for cooking and heating in homes

- Industrial heating in boilers

- Kilns and furnaces

- For camping and caravanning appliances

- Can also be used as an alternative to petrol as an engine and transport fuel

- Using LPG reduces greenhouse gas emissions from a vehicle by up to 0 per cent.

- Do not a huge domestic supply

- Non-renewable fossil fuel

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