GCSE Physics Edexcel P1 Topic 5

These are revision notes I made myself. I got A* in the Physics GCSE exam and 76 UMS in the P1 exam using only these notes.

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P1 Topic 5: Generation and transmission of electricity
We use electricity for many things, and it all has to be generated using different forms of energy. Electrical
power is the energy transferred per second. The higher the power, the more energy is transferred every
Renewable energy resources are resources that will not run out and we can keep making them. Most
renewable energy resources do not cause pollution or greenhouse gases when used as no fuel is burned.
Non-renewable energy resources
The four non-renewable energy sources are the three fossil fuels and nuclear: Coal, Oil, Natural Gas and
Nuclear fuels.
These will all run out one day and cause damage on the environment in different ways, but they do provide
most of our energy.
Environmental problems
All fossil fuels release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Coal releases the most carbon dioxide for the same
amount of energy, followed by oil and then natural gas as the `cleanest' out of the three. This is bad as
carbon dioxide contributes to global warming, which is becoming a growing problem.
Some have suggested stopping it entering our atmosphere by capturing and storing it underground, but this
is too expensive a method to be widely used yet.
Burning coal and oil also produces sulphur dioxide due to their sulphur impurities, which can cause acid rain.
This is reduced by neutralising or taking the sulphur out before it reaches the atmosphere or cleaning up
Coal mining ruins the landscape; especially in "open-cast mining" and oil spillages cause serious environmental
problems. They try to be avoided but are inevitable to occur.
Nuclear power may be clean but the by-products, nuclear waste, are very dangerous and expensive and
difficult to dispose of.
Nuclear fuel is relatively cheap but the building and decommissioning of the power plant makes the overall
cost high. Nuclear power always holds the risk of a major catastrophe, such as the Chernobyl disaster.
Turbines and nuclear reactors
Most of the electricity we use is generated from the four non-renewable sources of energy in big power
stations, which are all fairly similar apart from the boiler.
The big difference between a nuclear power station and the other power stations is the boiler (see later).
Nuclear power stations take the longest time of all the power stations to start up, and natural gas power
stations the least time.
Despite the possible pollution they cause, fossil-fuelled and nuclear power stations have important

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At the moment, there is a good supply of both fossil fuels and nuclear fuel.
o They produce cheaper electricity than electricity from renewable resources.
o As they do not depend on the weather or the tides, the electricity is available all the time.
Fuel Estimated time left
Coal 164 years
Gas 67 years
Oil 41 years
Uranium 265 years
Renewable Power sources
`Renewable' means the source can be produced again and again: it will never run out.…read more

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Wind turbines can be used to generate electricity if the wind speed is not too long or too fast. A lot of wind
turbines are needed to produce the same amount of energy as a fossil fuelled power station can and some
people think they can spoil the landscape.
Each wind turbine has a small generator inside it so electricity is generated directly from the wind turning the
blades, which turn the generator.
There is no pollution, except for when they are manufactured.…read more

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If you move a magnet into a coil of wire, a voltage is induced in the wire. If the wire is part of a complete
circuit, the voltage will cause a current to flow in the circuit. Larger voltages produce larger currents.
This process is called electromagnetic induction and the current is called an induced current. You get the same
effect if you move the coil instead of the magnet.…read more

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Electricity is sent from power stations to homes, schools and factories by a system of wires and cables called
the National Grid. Electricity passing through a wire will heat it up. The heat produced in the transmission lines
in the National Grid is wasted energy.
If the voltage of the electricity passing through the wires is increased, less energy is wasted as heat and the
efficiency is improved.…read more

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If we use less energy, we reduce the amount of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere and also
save money.
Modern appliances are more efficient than older designs of the same appliances. For example, a 10-year-old
fridge will use about 85 kWh more electricity per year than a new one. However, not all new fridges use the
same amount of electricity and they are more expensive to buy.
Different kind of appliances can be used to do the same job.…read more


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