Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Energy and the Environment

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Energy and the Environment

Today we will get to know about a natural story full of energy and joy. As we will learn about our surroundings also known as the environment. Every day we see and feel the heat of the sun, the cooling effect of the wind, and see the untiring flow of the river.

All of these constitute the environment and here we'll know more about it in greater detail.

Energy can be defined as the capacity to do work, which is also equal to the work done by a body when acted upon by an external force.

Work done is always equal to the energy spent in any form; potential energy, kinetic energy, heat energy or any other forms of energy.

Energy can be spent in a number of different forms. Here are some formulae for different types of energy:

Gravitational potential energy is the energy associated with moving a massive object through a gravitational field.

or in symbols:

Kinetic energy is the energy associated with the movement of a massive object.

,

or in words,

The heat energy gained by a material can be calculated using the following formula:

,

or in words,

Energy exists in different forms such as kinetic energy, potential energy, nuclear energy, and thermal energy.

Different forms of energy:

On earth, we can find two forms of energy: renewable sources and non-renewable sources of energy.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources are the energy sources which have the capacity to renew and replenish themselves naturally as they are being used. These sources won't become exhausted on human time-scales.

Different examples of renewable sources of energy include: Solar Energy, Wind Energy, Tidal energy, Geothermal Energy, and biomass energy.


A large field with solar panels fxed on the ground and the sun is shining on themSolar energy, which is captured by photovoltaic cells in a solar energy farm,

Non-Renewable Energy

Let's look at a definition of non-renewable energy sources.

Non-renewable energy sources are the energy sources that do not have the capacity to renew and replenish themselves naturally after they have been used. These sources will become exhausted after a certain period of time. It takes thousands of years to replenish these sources.

Different examples of non-renewable sources of energy include: Fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, petroleum and crude oil.

An old coal mine which is in the process of taking coal form the mine to the processing areaCoal from the mine is being transported into the coal processing plant

What is meant by environment?

The word environment has a number of meanings. Let's start with a definition of the environment so that we are clear about what we mean by the environment in this context.

The environment refers to our surroundings, including the natural habitat, the biosphere and the general conditions and geographical locations that humans inhabit.

The environment is filled with a number of different energy sources, and many of these energy sources have a range of applications in the real world. It is useful for us to understand our effects on the environment so that we can act to mitigate any negative effects we may be causing to it.

Different sources of energy in the environment:

There are a number of different energy sources that exist in our natural environment. In order to live the modern lives that we do, we require large amounts of energy. Given that there is only a limited amount of energy available in our environment at any given time, we want to harness this energy as efficiently as possible. Another very important consideration that needs to be made when comparing different energy sources is the effect that extracting the energy from the environment has on the environment.

Direct sources

A Direct source of energy produces energy that can be harnessed without any additional processing or energy expenditure.

  1. Solar energy: Energy that is derived from the sun. This energy is used by all living organisms which are present on the earth. Solar energy is the primary source of energy for plants to help them to grow and bear fruits.
  2. Wind energy: This is another source of energy that is not generally harnessed by all living organisms. Birds use the power of the wind to aid their flight. Many plants and fungi take advantage of the wind and use it to disperse seeds and pollen. We humans use wind energy to our advantage when we sail on the seas as well as while flying in aeroplanes.
  3. Geothermal energy: This is the energy extracted from the hot core of the earth. The heated core of the earth transfers heat towards the crust, it heats up the cracks and crevices through which heat flows. This energy is observed as natural geysers which are found in different parts of the world and this heated water is then used to heat up homes.

Indirect sources

An indirect source of energy requires additional energy to harness.

  1. Bio-fuels: this is the energy found in organic matter. The energy is extracted through the fermentation process, leading to the production of ethanol, which in turn is burnt to produce energy. This is used in association with other fossil fuels such as petrol diesel and natural gas.
  2. Hydroelectric energy: This is the energy generated by the flow of water when allowed to fall from a certain height leading to the rolling of turbines, thus generating electricity.
  3. Tidal Energy: This is another source of energy that is generated by water movement in large water bodies such as seas and the ocean. Tides are generated due to the gravitational pull of the moon. Special turbines are prepared and installed to harness this energy.
  4. Fossil fuels: This comprises coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other various subsidiaries of crude oil. Fossil fuels cannot be used directly as there is an extraction process following which the raw material is processed to make it usable for different forms of work in different industries as well as for household energy requirements.

Importance and challenges of energy in the environment

In our daily lives, we use energy for almost everything we do. Lighting, heating and cooling our buildings, manufacturing products, and powering our transportation systems all require energy that comes from a variety of natural sources, both renewable and non-renewable. This heavy dependency on energy is sustainable if we use the energy without harming our environment too much and if we take into consideration the limitations that may be imposed by using certain sources of energy. The impact of energy use on the environment can happen at any time throughout the usage cycle starting from the energy generation, which itself is environmentally damaging (for most non-renewable sources).

Energy sources that harm the environment:

Energy generation is a double-edged sword. It is a necessary resource that we simply couldn't live without, but at the same time, it can have some disastrous effects on the environment. Non-renewable sources of energy tend to have the highest level of negative impact on the environment.

Arguably the most harmful impact on the environment comes from fossil fuels, which are non-renewable sources of energy. Fossil fuels come from organic matter which became fossilized thousands of years ago. The organic matter consists of bacteria and other algae which were buried, heated, and compressed under high pressure. This process transformed them into biomass which is used in three main forms: oil, coal, and natural gas.

Let's discuss some detrimental effects on the environment due to fossil fuel usage:

  1. Each and every fossil fuel produces carbon dioxide on burning which is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and climate change.
  2. Another gas that is emitted is sulphur dioxide, a group of toxic chemical compounds that leads to acid rain, which in turn can have damaging effects on the natural biodiversity of the environment as well as public properties. If inhaled, it can cause respiratory illness and different types of cardiovascular diseases in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.
  3. Improper burning of fossil fuels leads to the production of nitrous oxide and volatile organic carbons which results in the production of ozone gas on the surface level of the earth. This gas acts as an irritant if inhaled in large quantities.

Hydroelectricity:

Hydroelectricity or hydroelectric energy is a renewable form of energy that is being made by moving water. the word hydro comes from the Greek word meaning water. this form of energy has been in use photo over more than 1000 years. The moving water rotates the wheels of the turbine leading to electricity generation. there are water mills that act as a source of hydroelectric power which are mostly constructed near the banks of rivers. The generated power is then used for a diverse group of activities which include application in different industries such as the wood industry, steel industry even the raw food processing industry.

The negative impacts of hydroelectricity:

  • Impact on water biodiversity: This type of project involves the creation of dams which are huge concrete structures that takes up huge space and required a lot of construction procedure. This impacts the flora and fauna as well as the water biodiversity of the region.
  • Limited location to set up hydroelectric power plant: Since these involve the creation of dams only a few places can be used to create an infrastructure of such magnitude hence making a limited application.
  • Risk of floods: The dams are sometimes required to release water to reduce water pressure thus creating artificial floods.

Nuclear energy:

Nuclear energy is the energy produced when the nuclei of heavy elements are split in a nuclear reactor under intense heat and pressure. This energy extraction process is known as nuclear fission.

There are still arguments about whether nuclear power should be considered a renewable or non-renewable energy source, but many argue that since there is only a limited amount of uranium present in the environment, we will eventually run out, meaning that ultimately, nuclear fission is not renewable. Some see nuclear power as an important transition energy source that will be useful for transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards more renewable sources of energy.

“Currently, world production of electricity from nuclear power is about 19.1 trillion kWh, with the United States producing and consuming about 22% of that. Nuclear power provides about 9% of the electricity in the United States”.

A pie chart showing the different percentages of energy usage in the USU.S. Energy Consumption by Energy Source, 2009 Renewable energy makes up 8% of U.S. energy consumption. Studysmarter originals

One of the reasons that some people argue that nuclear power is not 'clean' is due to the production process. Nuclear power plants themselves are a threat to the environment as they can damage the plants and animals around them. The fuel used by the nuclear power plants is generally uranium, thorium, radium, and some others. These materials require mining and refining, thus there's an additional space and infrastructure requirement to pre-process these minerals before they can be used in the energy production process. Once they have been used, these power plants generate a pile of nuclear waste which includes uranium mill tailings, spent (used) reactor fuel, and other radioactive waste.

These materials can have negative impact health of those operating powerplants if safety precautions are not met diligently because they are highly radioactive.

What is radioactive material?

Radioactive materials are materials that are capable of producing radiation. This radiation can have detrimental effects on humans such as damage to DNA, leading to cancer. This harm is not limited to humans. Plants and animals in the natural environment can also be harmed in much the same way by ionizing radiation. This radiation takes a long time to decay, therefore, radioactive material can cause damage to living things for extended periods of time, even if a nuclear power plant has been decommissioned for years. The effects of past nuclear disasters are still seen to this day. Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants is stored in specific containers which are made of lead that protects the surrounding environment by limiting the exposure of radiation outside the specific containers. The future of nuclear energy is unclear because its use is still a heavily debated topic amongst scientists and policymakers alike.

Which energy systems are more environmentally friendly?

So, as we've seen, there are many different sources of energy that are available and present in the environment. Non-renewable sources of energy such as fossil fuels, coal, and natural gas are quite harmful to the environment as the greenhouse gas emissions from these can lead to environmental damage and climate change. We have also seen that other energy sources such as nuclear energy and hydroelectric energy can also impact the environment negatively leading to biodiversity loss.

The most environmentally friendly energy sources are solar energy, wind energy, biofuels, and tidal energy as these require less infrastructure compared to coal plants for example, and are less damaging to the environment due to their sustainable and eco-friendly production process and relatively limited greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy and the Environment - Key takeaways

  • We have two main types of energy; Renewable and non-renewable sources of energy.
  • Renewable sources are replenished and won't be used up on a human time scale.
  • Non-renewable sources those are that are in limited stock and will get used up in one's lifetime.
  • Nuclear power comes in between renewable as well as non-renewable, it depends on the policy of the government.
  • Renewable energy sources include solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectricity, tidal energy, biomass and geothermal energy.
  • Non-renewable energy sources include coal, oil and gas.
  • The burning of fossil fuels is a leading factor driving global warming and climate change.
  • Air pollution and biodiversity loss are some of the other effects of the use of fossil fuels.

Final Energy and the Environment Quiz

Question

True or false: The wind contains kinetic energy.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

The first application of wind energy was sailing. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True - this is the first known use of wind energy by humans.

Show question

Question

Windmills can be used for water pumping as one possible application of wind power. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

How many major components does a windmill for grinding grain have? 

Show answer

Answer

This type of windmill has two major components:  The blades and the millstones.

Show question

Question

In a wind energy system, the blades are used for: 

Show answer

Answer

Transforming the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical power. 

Show question

Question

Why are the blades are connected to the drive shaft in a wind power generator unit?

Show answer

Answer

Once the blades rotates, the drive shaft will also rotate causing the electric generator to turn ON.  

Show question

Question

What is the role of an electric generator in a wind power generator unit?

Show answer

Answer

The electric generator will transform the mechanical power of the drive shaft into electrical energy. 

Show question

Question

How much did the worldwide wind power generation capacity increase year-over-year in 2020 compared to 2019?

Show answer

Answer

53%

Show question

Question

Is wind a renewable source of energy?

Show answer

Answer

Sunlight continues to shine and wind continues to blow despite the fact that their availability is dependent on time and weather conditions. Therefore, wind is a renewable source of energy.

Show question

Question

One advantage of wind energy is that wind turbines are zero-emissions systems. Is this statement true?

Show answer

Answer

While producing electricity using wind turbine units, we don't combust any type of fossil fuels. This result in zero emissions in the electricity generation process. However, if the production, transportation and maintenance of the turbine are taken into account, then they might not be truly said to be zero-emission energy sources.

Show question

Question

Mention one disadvantage of wind energy power generation systems:

Show answer

Answer

The high initial cost, threat to wildlife and the non-consistent availability of wind. 

Show question

Question

Does the chosen site of wind turbines affect the wind power of the generation unit?

Show answer

Answer

Wind turbines can only be installed where there is a somewhat steady wind of adequate strength.  If these conditions are not available, electricity cannot be reliably generated.  

Show question

Question

How do wind power generation units affect the wildlife?

Show answer

Answer

When birds, bats, and other flying critters are hit directly by a rotating wind turbine blade, they only have a small chance of surviving.  

Show question

Question

The wind's kinetic energy is estimated to have transported Australian Aborigines from Southeast Asia's mainland to Australia 40 000 years ago. This is one example of the first applications of wind power.  Is this statement true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

The topography and climate of Canada are estimated to have the ability to generate 485 GW from wind power. Is this statement true or false?


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Where does geothermal energy originate?

Show answer

Answer

From the energy captured throughout the Earth's formation and from the radioactive decay of materials about 5 billion years ago. 

Show question

Question

Why is geothermal energy considered a renewable energy resource?

Show answer

Answer

Because its source is the nearly limitless quantity of heat generated by the Earth's core.  

Show question

Question

Which geologic formations enable geothermal energy extraction? 

Show answer

Answer

Hydrothermal phenomena, geopressured, hot and dry rock, and magma.

Show question

Question

Geothermal energy sources do not threaten the ozone layer. (True/False)

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

The carbon footprint of a geothermal power plant is high. 

 (True/False) 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Geothermal energy sources may trigger earthquakes.

 (True/False) 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Geothermal energy sources do not emit greenhouse gases.

 (True/False) 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Why is geothermal energy sustainable?

Show answer

Answer

Because even if geothermal areas rely on a hot water reservoir, the volume extracted can be reinjected.  

Show question

Question

What are some of the uses of geothermal energy?

Show answer

Answer

Greenhouse and district heating, industrial use, thawing ice and snow, and thermal tourism. 

Show question

Question

A large area is needed for installing drilling machines. (True/False)

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Preparation and research costs are low. (True/False)

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Fossil fuels are needed for electricity generation with geothermal energy sources. (True/False)

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Liquid substances coming out of geothermal sources, often create pollution. (True/False)

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Earth's surface temperature is determined by heat flowing from its core. (True/False)


Show answer

Answer

False. 

Since the rate of energy emerging from the Sun is 5000 times faster than the rate of heat flow through Earth's crust, Earth's surface temperature is determined by energy from the Sun rather than heat flowing from its core. 

Show question

Question

For thawing ice and snow, geothermal energy sources are used mostly in Argentina, Iceland, Japan, Switzerland, and America. 

(True/False)

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Which of these is a non-renewable energy source?

Show answer

Answer

Fossil fuel.

Show question

Question

Where does solar energy come from?

Show answer

Answer

Nuclear fusion.

Show question

Question

How does solar energy travel to the earth?

Show answer

Answer

Electromagnetic radiation.

Show question

Question

Solar power is a non-renewable source of energy.

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Name a few advantages of solar energy.

Show answer

Answer

  • Solar energy is a renewable source of energy with no associated fuel costs.
  • There are no harmful polluting gases produced.
  • Low maintenance costs of equipment
  • Energy independence

Show question

Question

Write a few disadvantages of solar energy


Show answer

Answer

  • High initial investment
  • Shortage of semiconductor materials
  • Dependency on weather and geography

Show question

Question

Which of these is a disadvantage of photovoltaic panels?


Show answer

Answer

They do no operate at night.

Show question

Question

How is sunlight converted into electricity?

Show answer

Answer

Photovoltaic cells

Show question

Question

What is a renewable source of energy?

Show answer

Answer

A renewable energy source is one which is constantly produced at or above the rate at which it is consumed.

Show question

Question

Solar radiation is the largest source of energy in the universe.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What are ways of harnessing solar power?

Show answer

Answer

All the options.

Show question

Question

A solar panel is a ...

Show answer

Answer

A grid wise arrangement of solar cells

Show question

Question

Which material is used in photovoltaic cells ?

Show answer

Answer

Semiconductors

Show question

Question

Name a few of semiconductors used in Photovoltaic cells

Show answer

Answer

Silicon, Germanium

Show question

Question

Examples of solar energy are ...

Show answer

Answer

  • Photosynthesis
  • Solar cells or photovoltaic cells
  • Solar water heaters

Show question

Question

What is electrical energy? 

Show answer

Answer

Electrical energy is the type of energy generated by the movement of  electrical charges along a conductor. This movement is generated by a difference in potential between two points.

Show question

Question

Do conductors allow the pass of electrons? 

Show answer

Answer

Yes, conductors allow the flow of electrons to go through them. 

Show question

Question

Thanks to the ______ the charges move from one point to another

Show answer

Answer

Difference in potential or voltage

Show question

Question

What type of energy do electric engines transform the electrical energy to?

Show answer

Answer

Mechanical energy 

Show question

Question

What is mechanical energy? 

Show answer

Answer

The sum of kinetic energy and potential energy 

Show question

More about Energy and the Environment
60%

of the users don't pass the Energy and the Environment quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.