Sources of Energy for Electricity Generation
Fossil Fuels – Coal
Firstly, coal is a non-renewable source of energy, as it will eventually run out. It is estimated that we will run out of coal in about 1000 years. To generate electricity, coal is ground down into a fine powder so it is easier to burn. Once this is done the coal is blown into a combustion chamber where it burns at a very high temperature. Water lining the tubes surrounding the boiler is then turned into steam by the heat and gases produce from burning coal. The steam turns the propellers in a turbine and this creates electricity.
The advantages are that it is relatively cheap and that it is abundant compared to other fossil fuels. It is also a very reliable method of creating electricity. However, burning coal emits harmful gases into the atmosphere like sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Mining coal will also leave a nasty scar on the landscape too.
Fossil Fuels – Oil
Much like coal, oil can be burned to create steam which then turns a turbine which generates electricity. Oil will probably run out in the next 40 years, so this is a huge disadvantage. Most oil is found and exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. As a liquid, oil is relatively easy to export and transport, it is also useful for many things other than electricity. On the other hand, oil prices are rising meaning consumer prices for electricity will also rise and oil burning contributes to global warming.
Fossil Fuels – Gas
Natural gas comes from millions of years of pressure on very small sea creatures; this is the same way oil is formed. Again, natural gas can be burned so steam then turns a turbine. Another way to generate electricity from natural gas is by centralized gas turbines. This employs nearly the same method as with steam, but hot gases made by heating natural gas turn the turbines, not steam. A large disadvantage is that a lot of people want it because it is a clean burner, driving prices up. But in that is an advantage: the fact that it produces reduced emissions when being burnt.
Nuclear Fuel – Uranium
Rods of uranium are placed in the reactor’s core then free neutrons are released. When the neutrons hit the rods, fission occurs and tremendous amounts of heat are released. At a steam boiler, steam is released until it turns a turbine which will generate electricity. The advantages are that it is a clean method of creating electricity, no greenhouse gases are emitted. Furthermore, you don’t need a lot of nuclear fuel to make a lot of energy. Although it burns cleanly, a lot of radioactive waste is created in the process, which needs careful disposal. As well as this, world uranium deposits are expected to run out within 50 years.
Biomass is the…