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Explore Global Energy Sources

Worksheet Overview

You may have seen an electricity meter in your house - they will look like one of the two below.

This is because it costs money to make electricity, and how much it costs will depend on how the energy is generated.

If it comes from a cheap source, like gas, then it will cost less, but expensive sources, like nuclear energy, will cost more.

 

Electricity meter        Electricity Meter

 

When we look at all the different ways of generating electricity, we can see that they have one thing in common (apart from solar) - it's all about moving a generator around in circles.

All of the different ways of doing this have a significant drawback though, which we are going to look into further in this activity. 

 

 

Non - Renewable

This means that these sources can only be used once and then never again i.e. they cannot be renewed. 

 

Type of Energy Generation Advantages Disadvantages
Coal

Really easy to get quite a lot of energy out of it. 

There is a load of coal in the UK.

Very efficient (about 50%).

Very polluting - the most polluting type of energy generation.

Creates not only greenhouse gases but also nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides that make acid rain.

Creates pollution that can cause asthma.

Very hard to make it completely clean.

We will run out of coal one day. 

Oil

Much cleaner than coal.

Can make more energy than coal.

Much safer than coal. 

Not a lot of it in the UK.

Still produces a lot of carbon dioxide contributing to the greenhouse effect. 

We will run out of oil one day. 

Nuclear

Very safe.

Produces the most energy out of all of the methods.

Only need a small amount of nuclear fuel to make it work.  

If things go wrong, then this could be a major, long lasting disaster (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima Daiichi are examples here).

Nuclear waste is produced - this is a long-lasting (35,000 years) natural pollutant.

Requires 'refining' of uranium that could then be used for making bombs.

We will run out of uranium one day.

 

 

Renewable

This means that these sources can be used over and over again without running out i.e. they can be renewed.

 

Type of Energy Generation Advantages Disadvantages
Solar

Produces no pollution.

Can be used anywhere it is needed.

Relatively easy to make. 

Only works during the day (of course!).

Can be expensive to fit.

Requires regular cleaning to make sure that there is no blockage of the light and, therefore, reduction in efficiency. 

Wind

Produces no pollution. 

Makes quite a lot of energy.

Can be placed 'offshore' to reduce effect on local environments and be more efficient. 

Only works if there is wind.

Can affect local wildlife, including birds and bats. 

Eyesore and noisy for people who live near them. 

Hydro

(includes dams, tidal and wave)

Can be switched on and off to cope with demand. 

Produces no pollution. 

Often destroys a large area of natural habitats to make them. 

Blocking rivers makes it hard for wildlife, such as salmon, to reach breeding grounds. 

Biomass

Uses waste that humans naturally make from farming to generate electricity. 

Easy to do, because it employs the same processes as coal and oil.  

 

Has a strong smell ( you are burning cow excrement after all!) 

Still produces pollutants, like particulates and carbon dioxide. 

Doesn't make as much energy as others.

 

You need to be able to consider all these options and decide critically which is the best solution in a given situation, based on the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

 

Let's give it a try now.

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