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Science

Choosing energy sources

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A number of different energy sources exist. Some of these are renewable and some are not. All of us have difficult choices to make when using energy, though it is clear that a mix of sources will need to be used.

Different kinds of energy sources

Renewable energy sources

Our renewable energy resources will never run out. Their supply is not limited. There are no fuel costs either. And they typically generate far less pollution than fossil fuels.

Renewable energy resources include:

  • wind energy
  • water energy, such as wave machines, tidal barrages and hydroelectric power
  • geothermal energy
  • solar energy
  • biomass energy, for example energy released from wood

A wind turbine

However, there are some negatives to generating renewable energy. For example, wind farms are noisy and may spoil the view of people who live near them. The amount of electricity generated depends on the strength of the wind. Also, if there is no wind, there is no electricity.

Non-renewable energy sources

There is a limited supply of non-renewable energy resources, which will eventually run out. They include:

  • fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas
  • nuclear fuels, such as uranium

Fossil fuels release carbon dioxide when they burn, which adds to the greenhouse effect and increases global warming. Of the three fossil fuels, coal produces the most carbon dioxide, for a given amount of energy released, while natural gas generates the least.

The fuel for nuclear power stations is relatively cheap. But the power stations themselves are expensive to build. It is also very expensive to dismantle old nuclear power stations or store radioactive waste, which is a dangerous health hazard.

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