Major Characteristics of Energy Resources

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  • Major Characteristics of Energy Resources
    • Renewable or Non- Renewable?
      • Non renewable resources include nuclear fuels and the fossil fuels - coal, crude oil, natural gas, oil shales and tar sands.
        • These are finite because the amount available for use is fixed, so as they are used reserves are depleted.
      • Renewable  resources include sunlight, biofuels, tidal, wave and wind.
        • These are reformed by natural processes fast enough for new supplies to become available within a human lifespan.
        • Some renewables can become depleted if used unwisely. If trees are felled faster than they are growing then supplies will be depleted.
    • Energy Density
      • This is a measure of the amount of energy harnessed from a given quantity of resource.
        • It is easy to quantify as Joules per kilogram of fuel.
        • Very high energy density
          • Nuclear fusion
          • Nuclear fission
        • High energy density
          • Hydrogen
          • Fossil fuels
        • Medium energy density
          • Wood
          • HEP
        • Low energy density
          • Solar
          • Wind
    • Intermittency
      • This is where the process or resource is not constantly available
      • Many renewable resources are intermittent
    • Reliability
      • If an energy sources availability can be predicted it is reliable
      • It does not have to be available constantly to be reliable
        • Tidal power is intermittent but very reliable
        • Wave power is both intermittent and unreliable
    • Ease of Storage
      • The supply of energy and the demand for it are not perfectly matched so it may be necessary to store energy.
      • Storage may be needed to make intermittent supplies more useful or to allow peak shaving
    • Available resource
      • It is not always easy to estimate the proportion of the available resource that can realistically be harnessed. This affects its potential contribution to energy supplies
    • Geographical and locational factors
      • Resources that need to be extracted, such as fossil fuels and uranium ore, can only be exploited where they are found in favourable deposits
    • Level of technological development
      • It takes a long time to develop any technology until it is as efficient and reliable as possible
    • Environmental Impact
      • Pollution caused during the use and extraction of fuels is often very obvious
      • There is also damage caused during the manufacture of the equipment required to extract the fuel
    • Political and International Trade Issues
      • The french government subsidised nuclear power to protect the country from unreliable oil imports
      • Grants and tax refunds have encouraged the use of renewable resources in many European countries including the UK
    • Economic Issues
      • The rue cost of using energy is not easy to assess, as the total costs are not always covered by the price paid by the user.
      • Burning fossil fuels causes pollution including acid rain, which produces financial costs such as building damage, crop losses and forestry damage
      • The cost  of the equipment to harness the energy has to be paid at the start of the project, usually with borrowed money.
        • This puts renewable energies at a disadvantage, their high early costs make them uncompetitive compared with well established methods.
    • Applicability to particular uses
      • Because society has been shaped by the available energy resources, it may be difficult to adapt to using energy resources that have different characteristics
      • Fossil fuels are good for producing high temperatures for industrial processes, making liquid fuels for vehicles and steam to drive turbines to generate electricity. Nuclear power is also good for producing electricity
        • Renewable resources that are currently being used have different characteristics to fossil fuels and nuclear power.
          • Many can  make electricity but none can reach high enough temperatures compared to that of fossil fuels and do not produce liquid fuels in  sufficient quantities to drive all of our vehicles.


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