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Types of Energy and How We Use Them, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1270

Essay

Abstract

In a world of limited resources to produce energy, fossil fuel and other alternative means to produce energy are vital to the lives of everyone on the planet.  Understanding how fuel is turned into energy through the transformation process and how energy is neither created nor destroyed but merely changes its state of energy is paramount when comparing and contrasting multiple energy sources.  Fossil fuels are used in almost every facet of transportation, heating, cooling and movement.  Alternative fuels are necessary to fill the void of the non-renewable fossil fuels used today.  Solar energy and wind energy are two renewable sources which are the current time are only restrained by technological and economic factors due to their near unlimited availability.

Energy is the ability to do “work” and any form of energy can be transformed into another form, but the total energy always remains the same.  It can be found in many different forms such as chemical, electrical, thermal, radiant, nuclear and mechanical energy.  Each of the types of energy is produced in by different methods of transformation.Coal burning is a simple process for producing electrical energy. (SITE SOURCE)  During the process of burning coal at the coal burning plant chunks of coal are pulverized into dust and loaded into a coal burning chamber.  The chemical process of burning coal creates heat to be transferred to a boiler.  The boiler heats up through the heat transfer and boils the water to create steam.  This steam turns a turbine to create kinetic energy which in turns changes the kinetic energy into electrical energy to be used or stored for future use.  Another example of energy transfer would be driving a vehicle down the road.  There is a tremendous amount of energy use in multiple forms through this process.  In order for certain types of energy to form a specific purpose such as moving a vehicle down the road, multiple transformations of energy must take place.  Gasoline is introduced into the engine with oxygen and a spark to produce an explosion of heat and carbon dioxide.  This chemical reaction converts chemical energy into thermal energy and mechanical energy.  The heat and mechanical energy caused by the chemical reaction pushes the piston head down turning the chemical reaction into a mechanical energy and kinetic energy. Through the rotation of the engine and transfer of heat and kinetic energy the vehicle is propelled forward. It may appear that energy is lost through the process but as stated above energy is neither created nor destroy, it is only transferred and reapplied to other areas of energy.

In both the above examples of transforming on type of energy to another the source fuels were coal and gasoline.  Both of these fuels are hydrocarbon based fuels also known as fossil fuels.  Fossil fuels are created by the anaerobic decomposition of buried and dead organisms over the course of millions of years Most of the Earth’s fossil fuels were created during the Carboniferous Period (Site Berkeley), hence the term fossil fuel.  It is important to note that fossil fuels are also known as non-renewable sources of energy due to the long lead time in producing useable energy sources.  In some instances the lifecycle to create a fossil fuel would exceed hundreds of millions of years.  Fossil fuels are composed of carbon and hydrogen and can range from coal, petroleum to natural gas all depending on the mixture of carbon and hydrogen.  The main benefit of fossil fuels is their ability to produce energy.  The amount of fuel available with the amount it takes to use to create the amount of energy surpasses all other consumable energy sources available.Fossil fuels are readily available, multiple uses and an exponentially greater amount of energy in comparison to other energy producing methods currently available.  Although other means for energy production are not currently feasible as a direct competitor to fossil fuels in the world today, tomorrow may be a different story.  Through the economic principle of supply and demand as the demand grows greater for a certain commodity and the supply shrinks with no way to replenish the prices goes up (Prasch, 2008).  As the natural resource of fossil fuels diminish and are no longer able to sustain our needs and cost constraints other methods of energy production must be implemented to fill the growing needs of the world.

One area which currently subsidizes the use of fossil fuel for energy production is solar energy.  Solar energy is created from radiant light and heat from the sun.  Solar energy can be defined as passive or active solar energy depending on how they are captured (Bradford, 2010).  Passive solar energy collection uses sunlight without use of an active mechanical system which rely solely on the thermodynamic properties of the material or system to operate.  An example of this would be a house pointing in the direction of direct sunlight thus gaining heat by allowing the sunlight a direct surface for heat transfer.  This type of technology would use the sunlight to heat things like water or air to be used for hot water or a houses heating system. Active solar collection uses mechanical means to convert solar energy into another form of usable energy such as electricity or heat.  One benefit of active over passive solar energy production is that in the active technique with the use of controls the user can maximize the effectiveness and transfer of energy. The upside to the active process can also be a downside when comparing to the passive method.  If a control fails the entire system could be useless for electrical and heat energy production.  In comparison to fossil fuels the main advantage to solar energy is the abundance and availability of sunlight. The negative aspect is the amount of energy transferred from light to usable electric or heat energy. In comparison the amount of inputs used to turn solar into electric energy far outweigh the amount of inputs needed to turn fossil fuel into electrical, kinetic or heat energy thus making it harder for production of solar energy to meet the demands already in place.

As with solar energy, wind energy is generated through the use of a natural occurring phenomenon called wind.  Wind energy is the kinetic energy of wind as it flows across the earth.Theoretically to capture all of the wind energy, zero wind should leave the mechanical tool used to transfer the energy.Currently wind turbines are used to transfer and capture wind energy. Wind turbines are used to transfer the kinetic energy of the wind into ultimately electric energy to be used or stored for consumption in other applications.  As a replacement for fossil fuels, wind energy is a plentiful and renewablesource of energy only limited by economic and environmental factors for production (Manwell, 2009).  Some advantages over fossil fuel include winds availability, usability and costs.  Since wind is free and cannot be controlled by a single entity it is usable by all societies despite their economic status thus leading to development opportunities to other countries hindered by oil based economies.  Some negative aspects of wind power in relation to fossil fuels include:startup wind farms and their costs, noise pollution, landscape pollution and very large wind farms need to be created to meet the demand of energy consumption.

References

Bradford, R. (2010). Solar revolution, the economic transformation of the global energy industry. The MIT Press, 89-113. Print.

Manwell, A. F., McGowan, O. G., & Rogers, A. L. (2009). Wind energy explained, theory, design and application. John Wiley & Sons Inc.Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books/feeds/volumes?q=0470015004

Prasch, R,(2008) How markets work: supply, demand and the “real world”. Northhampton: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 3-13. Print.

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