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Sources of Energy Known Today

Solar power

Mankind uses today a wide range of energy sources, some of them being clean while others being considered dirty because they generated electricity by burning fossil fuels.

The clean sources of power available on the planet are represented by the green and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass, wave and tidal, while the energy sources based on fossil fuels represent nonrenewable sources of energy such as coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power.

Energy Sources – Definition

The sources of energy available today on the planet represent both the renewable and the nonrenewable sources of power, which are used to power mankind’s need of energy under the form of electricity, heating, light, transportation and manufacturing.

Primary and Secondary Sources of Energy

The primary sources of energy (renewable and nonrenewable) are used to produce secondary sources of energy.

Are considered primary sources of energy, the sources of power that can be used directly, such as: coal, natural gas, oil, wood, solar, wind, tides, waves, lakes and rivers used to produce hydropower, and geothermal (provided by the Earth’s heat).

The secondary sources of energy are produced by transforming the primary sources of power, such as: petroleum (produced from crude oil), electricity obtained by converting the kinetic power of the wind and water, by burning fossil fuels and nuclear fuel, heating obtained by burning fossil fuels, hydrogen obtained from natural gas or water, biomass, trash, and so on.

Renewable Sources of Energy

The renewable sources of power available today on the planet are represented by solar energy, wind power, biomass energy, hydropower, tidal and wave power and geothermal energy.

These are primary sources of energy, which means that they can be used directly to produce secondary sources of energy such as electricity, heat and fuels.

They are also renewable (they never run out) and clean because they are not releasing harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

1. Solar Energy

Solar energy represents a clean and renewable energy source because is generated by the Sun.

Mankind uses today the sunlight to generate clean electricity using solar panels or large mirrors that are pointed towards a central tower where an agent (usually molten salt) is heated at high temperatures to generate steam that will be used to spin a turbine, which will produce clean electricity using generators (solar thermal).

Solar power represents today only a tiny share in the energy mix of the planet, but in the future, the massive increase in generating capacity for solar energy will make solar, a major source of power in the global energy mix.

2. Wind Power

The kinetic power of the wind represents a renewable energy source because is produced by the Sun and will be here until the Sun and the atmosphere will be present.

Without the layers of air in the atmosphere and the sunlight that heats the air layers in an uneven way, the wind cannot exist.

However, until we have the Sun and the atmosphere here on the planet we can say that the wind represents a great source of clean electricity that can be harvested both on land (onshore) and on the sea (offshore).

Mankind uses today very large wind turbines installed onshore and offshore in areas with good and steady winds throughout the year to produce clean power.

Wind along with solar power will increase their presence in the energy mix of the planet in the future when their generation capacity will be increased hundreds of times.

3. Biomass Energy

Biomass consisting today of wood and plant waste, municipal solid waste, ethanol and biodiesel as clean fuels, biogas and landfill gas, but also some forms of trash, is considered a renewable energy source because trees and plants regrow, and because trash and waste are produced every day on a large scale by the human society based on consumption.

Biomass is used today to produce biomass energy (clean electricity and heat, which are secondary sources of power).

By burning biomass in power plants, steam is generated and is used to spin a turbine that will produce clean electricity using generators.

Biomass is also used today for heating.

4. Hydropower

Hydroelectric power or hydroelectric energy (clean electricity) is another form of renewable energy that is produced by the falling water (gravity is the force that makes the water to fall).

Large dams are used today to turn the kinetic power of the water into clean electricity using powerful underwater turbines that spin and generate electricity under the action of the moving water.

Hydropower represents today an important share in the global energy mix, and its generation capacity will be increased in the future even more.

5. Tidal Power

The tides on our planet represent another form of renewable energy that is produced by the combined gravitational forces of the Sun, Moon and Earth.

These forces are responsible for the presence of the tides in the ocean water and can be used to produce clean electricity.

Only in a few areas of the planet, the tides are high and strong enough to be used as an energy source.

However, the evolution of the technology in the field will create the possibility to generate clean electricity even in areas with smaller tides, which will increase the amount of renewable and clean energy produced on the planet.

6. Wave Power

The waves in our oceans represent another form of renewable energy that is harvested today in a few areas of the planet.

Wave energy can be produced on a mass scale using only the waves in our oceans, and the technology relies on buoys that are strongly amplifying the motion of the water and allow a large amount of energy to be absorbed.

The amplified linear motion is then converted into clean power using a new type of mechanical drive line that is installed inside the buoy.

The mechanical drive relies on a cascade gearbox with a unique design created for high reliability and effective conversion of linear to rotating motion.

Ocean waves are way denser compared to the wind, and they are more stable and more predictable, which creates the possibility to know from the start what will be the output of a power plant built to harvest the power of the waves.

7. Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is another form of primary and renewable energy because is produced by the Earth’s internal heat.

The heat that comes from deep underground is produced by the inner core of our planet, which is hotter than the surface of the Sun.

The geothermal energy reaches the surface of the planet under the form of hot water and steam, and is used for residential heating and cooling, but also to generate clean electricity using the hot steam that spins a turbine.

There are many countries in the world today with good resources of geothermal power that are using this awesome source of natural energy to produce clean electricity and also for residential heating and cooling.

Non-renewable Sources of Energy

Sadly, mankind still relies today on the energy produced by fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear fuel.

These dirty sources of energy represent even today the main sources of power on the planet and this is the reason why the environment is so polluted and damaged.

If we continue burning coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear fuel we are not only producing a massive pollution of the air, water and soil on the planet, but we are also producing nuclear waste that is not only hazardous, but also expensive and hard to dispose.

1. Coal Energy

Coal energy still has a share of 17 % in the U.S. primary energy production, which means that we still rely on the dirtiest source of power (also the cheapest) to produce electricity and heat in the country.

However, the share of coal in the U.S. energy mix is declining because the society is already moving towards the use of less polluting energy sources, and coal is slowly replaced by natural gas.

2. Oil Energy

Petroleum, which is a secondary energy source produced from crude oil along with the natural gas plant liquids represents a share of 28% in the U.S. energy mix of today.

Petroleum is also used to produce the fuels used in the transportation sector (gasoline and diesel fuel produced by refining petroleum).

Oil is less polluting compared to coal, but is still a fossil fuel that needs to be replaced by cleaner sources of power if we want to reduce the level of harmful emissions released into the atmosphere while burning oil related products.

3. Natural Gas Energy

The use of the natural gas in the U.S. energy mix has been increased in recent years, reaching today a share of 32%.

At the same time, the share of the coal in the energy mix of the U.S. decreases year after year because the society slowly moves towards low-carbon energy sources such as natural gas.

Natural gas is also a fossil fuel, but releases less harmful emissions while burning compared with oil and coal.

Being a cleaner source of electricity and heat, natural gas can help us make the transition from the very dirty energy sources such as coal and oil to less harmful energy sources such as natural gas and renewable energy sources.

4. Nuclear Energy

Many people consider nuclear power as a clean source of electricity, because the nuclear power plants are not releasing harmful emissions into the atmosphere during the nuclear fission reaction of uranium or plutonium that takes place in the nuclear reactors.

However, the nuclear fission reaction, produces clean electricity, but also nuclear waste, which is very harmful for the environment and any living being.

Nuclear power will represent a clean source of energy for the future only when mankind will manage to master the nuclear fusion reaction (the same reaction that takes place in the Sun every second) and will make it commercially viable.

Using hydrogen as nuclear fuel in the nuclear fusion reaction can produce unlimited amounts of clean electricity, which can end to the era of fossil fuels for good (hydrogen is a very abundant element here on Earth and in the entire universe).

Final conclusion

Mankind can use today a multitude of energy sources (renewable and nonrenewable) to cover its energy needs.

The future will bring an increase in energy independence for households because by installing renewable energy systems on the rooftop or in the yard (solar PV systems or residential wind turbines), will only help them realize that they can produce their own clean and free electricity, so they will rely less on the energy provided by the grid.

Article written by:

I am a writer and reporter for the clean energy sector, I cover climate change issues, new clean technologies, sustainability and green cars. Danny Ovy

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