January 20, 2004

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         Energy Facts          Energy Links     Back to Alternative Energy Home
lightbulbWHAT IS ENERGY?
     Energy is the ability to do work. Work can be carrying, moving or lifting something, warming something, and lighting something. Energy is needed to make our world work.
The Energy Story from Energy Quest, California Energy Commission

     Energy comes in many different forms -- heat (thermal energy), light (radiant energy), mechanical, electrical, chemical, and nuclear energy. All forms of energy are stored in different ways. These sources are divided into two groups -- renewable (an energy source that we can use over and over again) and nonrenewable (an energy source that we are using up and cannot recreate in a short period of time.)

Renewable and Non-renewable Energy from the Energy Information Administration

    nuclear power
Today we get most of our energy from NONRENEWABLE ENERGY sources. These include the fossil fuels -- oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy. Fossil fuels were formed over millions of years by heat from the Earth's core and pressure from rock and soil on the remains of dead plants and animals. Another nonrenewable energy source is the element uranium. Through a process of nuclear fission we split uranium's atoms to create the heat used to make electricity.   

Petroleum      Natural Gas        Coal        Nuclear energy

Non-renewable Energy

sources include solar energy, which comes from the sun and can be turned into electricity and heat. Geothermal energy from inside the earth, wind, biomass from plants, waste and hydropower from water and ocean tides are also renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy sources are also called ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

We'll learn all about it here.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all sources of energy. Some disadvantages are cost, pollution, danger, and availability. Scientists are always looking for better sources of energy that might limit the disadvantages.

solar cells hot springs
wind turbines
pine tree

     Solart PanelEnergy from the sun is called Solar Energy. We can all feel the heat from the sun. We can use this heat for our energy needs: to heat buildings, or warm water. Small devices called, photovoltaic cells, can turn light energy straight into electricity. How do we harness the power of the sun? Just click here to learn more or visit Dr. E's Energy Lab from the US Department of Energy.

The sun is the most inexhaustible , renewable source of energy known to man.

     We can get energy directly from the heat inside the earth. This is called Geothermal Energy. Miles below the earth's surface lies hot rock called magma. The heat from this rock rises to the earth's crust in certain spots and warms underground pools of water. Southern Idaho has many of these spots and scientists are developing ways to use this energy to heat homes, other buildings and swimming pools.

     Energy from the Earth's core, from the Energy Information Administration will tell you more. You can also watch a geothermal energy slide show.

Find out about Geothermal Energy Research at Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory

     Wind TurbinesWind PowerWindmills have been used for a long time to grind grains and pump water from wells. Modern windmills, called wind turbines, are now used to generate electricity. Wind turbines can be very big and built in groups known as a wind farm. Small wind turbines can be used to charge batteries To see how much electricity they produce and exactly how they work, just click here. This website has good photos of different kinds of turbines.

    Hydroelectric Dam The water in rivers can be used to make hydropower. Dams create large lakes. Water from the lake flows through machines called turbines which are connected to generators that make electricity. Water has the power to make electricity for whole cities! For more about the power of water just click here.

     The oceans may eventually provide us with another source of energy. We may be able to use the ocean's tides and the ocean's waves. 70% of the earth's surface is covered with water...that's a lot of waves that can be used for energy! Learn more from The Energy Story 

     Biomass and Waste You may be surprised to learn that the countryside can provide excellent sources of energy. Dead trees, left-over crops, sawdust, and clippings can be used to produce electricity and fuel. These sources are called "biomass."

     The trash we produce everyday can also be used as fuel. When waste is burned in incinerators it gives off heat which can be used to make electricity or to heat buildings. If waste is buried in a landfill, the gas it gives off as it decomposes can be collected and used.

      To find out more about how wood, crops and trashcan provide energy for us, click here.

Trash Can

There have been many great  Pioneers in Energy. Read the biographies of people who have contributed to energy and science discovery, inventions and research.

      Now that you're becoming experts about energy, and alternative energy, you'll need to know some things you can do to "save energy. Follow Roofus as he shows you his energy efficient neighborhood.
Move to more Links         Consult the Energy Glossary
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