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Generating Electricity

There are many ways to generate electricity such as solar power, wind power, tidal power and fossil fuels. Here are some of them.

Solar power

You might see solar panels on the roofs of some houses or on top of some lights.

 

Solar cells are devices that convert light energy directly into electrical energy. You may have seen small solar cells in calculators. Larger solar cells are used to power road signs in remote areas or to generate power to houses, and even larger arrays are used to power satellites in orbit around Earth. You might come across fields full of solar panels which will generate lots of energy for nearby buildings.

Solar power has lots of advantages but it also comes with a few disadvantages. 

Advantages 

  • Solar power is a renewable source of energy

  • There is no cost for fuel

  • No harmful gasses or pollutants.

  • It will work anywhere that has sunlight (most places)

Disadvantages 

  • Solar cells do not work at night

  • They are expensive to produce 

  • They are inefficient

Wind Energy

The wind is caused by convection currents in the Earth's atmosphere, which are driven by heat energy from the Sun.

Wind turbines use the wind to spin the big blades. The blades are connected to a 'nacelle', or housing, which contains gears linked to a generator. Again there are both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages 

  • The wind is a renewable energy resource

  • There are no fuel costs 

  • No harmful gasses or pollutants are produced  

Disadvantages 

  • If there is no wind blowing then there will be no electricity produced.

  • Wind farms can be noisy and may spoil the view for people living near them.

  • The amount of electricity that is produced depends on how much win there is.

Tidal power

Huge amounts of water move in and out of rivers each day due to the tides. A tidal barrage (a kind of dam) is built across estuaries, forcing water through gaps to make use of the kinetic energy in the moving water. The barrage contains generators, which are driven by the water flowing through tubes in the barrage.

Advantages 

  • No harmful gasses or pollutants are produced

  • Tidal barrages are very reliable and can be easily switched on or off

  • Water power is a renewable energy resource

  • There are no fuel costs 

Disadvantages 

  • Dams flood farmland and push people from their homes

  • Tidal barrages destroy the habitat of estuary species

  • The rotting vegetation underwater releases methane​

Fossil Fuels 

Crude oil, coal and gas are all fossil fuels. They were formed over millions of years, from the remains of dead organisms. Fossil fuels are a finite resource and they are being used faster than they are produced, hence we are running out of them. Millions of years ago, lots of microscopic animals and plants - plankton - died and fell to the bottom of the sea. Their remains were covered by mud. As more mud formed on top, the pressure and temperature increased which meant that the plant and animal remain where chemically altered, turning them into crude oil and natural gas.

Advantages 

  • Currently, fossil fuels are relatively cheap and easy to obtain.

  • Much of our infrastructure is designed to run using fossil fuels.

Disadvantages 

  • Fossil fuels are non-renewable, we will run out soon

  • Coal and oil release sulfur dioxide gas when they burn, a toxic gas for living creatures. it also creates acid rain

  • Fossil fuels release carbon dioxide which is a major greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming