Energy and Its Sources
Energy is an important element in daily life since it used for many activities like moving vehicles, promoting growth of the human body, and enabling humans to think. However, energy can be found in various forms like sound, heat, motion, and light though they are classified into kinetic and potential energy. While kinetic energy is the motion of substances, waves, objects, molecules, and atoms; potential energy is gravitational or stored energy. Some major examples of kinetic energy include thermal, radiant, electrical, motion, and sound while potential energy includes nuclear and chemical energy.
Converting Energy from One Form to Another:
Based on the Law of Conservation of Energy, no energy can be lost as energy is transformed or converted from one form to another (“Chapter 2 — Forms of Energy,” 2012). This is mainly because the total amount of energy used in the conversion process must be equivalent to the total amount of produced energy. During this process, some energy is usually transformed into undesired form, which is commonly known as wasted energy. Similar to the processes involved in the conversion of coal into electrical energy, most energy conversion processes needs several steps. As compared to other conversion processes, the energy wasted in every step while converting coal to electrical energy makes the entire process less efficient. In this case, the amount of electricity produced is usually less than the amount used in burning coal.
Since there are various forms of energy, there are also different types of energy conversions such as mechanical, chemical, and electrical energy conversions (“Energy Conversions,” n.d.). However, there are three basic ways with which energy can be converted from one form to another. First, energy can be converted through the action of forces including gravitational, frictional, and electric and magnetic force fields. Under gravitational forces, the potential energy of an object is converted into kinetic energy when gravity speeds up the falling object. On the contrary, gravitational field conserves energy used by a lifter as the potential energy when an object is lifted. An example of this process is a bouncing ball that initially has kinetic energy as its falls. As the ball hits the ground, its bottom stops while the top keeps moving and the ball becomes flatter as it stretches. The stretched ball then stores potential energy while some of its kinetic energy is converted to thermal energy every time it stretches.
Secondly, energy can be converted through frictional forces in which the potential and kinetic energy is transformed into thermal energy when an object slides against another object. In this case, the sliding makes the molecules on the surface of contact to interrelate with each other through electromagnetic fields and start vibrating. An example of this energy conversion is when an individual rubs his hands against each other. The third way of converting energy through action of forces is where electric and magnetic force fields where charged particles with potential energy are converted into heat similar to the case of electrical current in a conductor. The other ways for energy conversion are when atoms absorb and release protons of light and when nuclear reactions take place (“How Energy is Converted?” n.d.).
Fossil Fuels as Sources of Energy:
In addition to being finite and non-renewable resource, fossil fuels generally include petroleum, coal, and natural gas. These energy sources continue to be the basic source for production of electricity because combustion of these fuels releases chemical energy that produces heat to power steam turbines. Given that the production of electricity from fossil fuels incorporates various steps of energy conversion, the fossil fuel power plants produce approximately 40% power, making them to be inefficient.
Currently, fossil fuels account for approximately 88% of the commercial energy sources that are used across the globe. Even though there are several environmental problems associated with the increased use of fossil fuels, they continue to be popular. They are attractive because they are available and apparently inexpensive making them to be considered as marvelous energy sources. Moreover, fossil fuels are attractive because people have learnt to use them very effectively as they entail relatively simple technology. Actually, they are apparently easy to use because they only require a simple direct combustion in order to generate energy.
Alternatives to Fossil Fuels:
As fossil fuels are associated with environmental problems like urban air pollution, climate change, and acid deposition, there are various alternatives to these energy sources. Some of these alternatives include nuclear power, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydropower sources of energy. Solar energy is a renewable energy source that is linked to the exploitation of the sun’s current emissions of heat and light. While there are various types of technologies to achieve this, solar power is classified into active, passive, and photovoltaic solar. Active solar is solar energy that is directly converted in the application state whereas passive solar is power obtained without any mechanical means and photovoltaic solar is conversion of solar radiation into electricity by using photovoltaic cells.
Hydropower is the use of the force of moving water to generate electricity and includes various forms of water power like tidal power and waterwheels. The hydroelectric power plants are made up of water turbines that convert energy from flowing water into mechanical energy. This is followed by the conversion of the mechanical energy into electricity or electrical energy through an electric generator.
The main advantage of these alternative energy sources over fossil fuels is that they don’t contribute to environmental problems associated with fossil fuels. Furthermore, hydro-electric power plants have simpler designs as compared to some conventional fossil fuel stations like coal-fired stations. Similar to solar energy, hydro-electric power is a renewable energy source unlike the fossil fuels that are non-renewable. However, these alternatives are not exploited like fossil fuels because their technologies are relatively expensive. Hydropower energy is resource-limited in several countries worldwide while the power produced by solar energy is intermittent (Judkins, Fulkerson & Sanghvi, n.d.). This is despite of the fact that the demands for these energy sources has continued to grow throughout the world.
Energy is an important element in daily life since it makes humans work to an extent that there is no work without energy. Despite of the existence of several forms of energy, energy conversion is a common aspect of this element in its use. While fossil fuels have continued to be the most common energy source across the globe regardless of the environmental problems associated with them, there are relatively expensive and complex alternatives.
“Chapter 2 — Forms of Energy.” (2012, May 30). Department of Physics. Retrieved from The
Ohio State University website: https://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/103/textbook_pdf/per2.pdf
“Energy Conversions.” (n.d.). School World An Edline Solution. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from http://teachersites.schoolworld.com/webpages/PCochran/files/WS%20Energy%20Conversions%20Hndt.pdf
“How is Energy Converted?” (n.d.). New Mexico Solar Energy Association. Retrieved July 9,
2012, from http://www.nmsea.org/Curriculum/Primer/how_is_energy_converted.htm
Judkins, R.R., Fulkerson, W. & Sanghvi, M.K. (n.d.). The Dilemma of Fossil Fuel Use and Global Climate Change. Retrieved from Argonne National Laboratory website: http://web.anl.gov/PCS/acsfuel/preprint%20archive/Files/36_1_ATLANTA_04-91_0331.pdf
“Sources of Energy.” (n.d.). Distributed Generation Education Modules. Retrieved from Consortium on Energy Restructuring, Virginia Tech website: http://www.dg.history.vt.edu/ch2/sources.html
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