Sources of energy

Home learning focus

Learn the basics of energy generation from different sources.

This lesson includes:

  • two video clips demonstrating how electricity is made and water wheels

  • two activities to try at home


Where energy is required in design or production, there are several sources from which this can be obtained.

Fossil fuels are a finite resource, meaning that they cannot be replaced. Examples include:

  • coal
  • natural gas
  • oil

Renewable energy sources are a non-finite resource as they harness the Earth’s natural resources. Examples include:

  • wind
  • solar
  • tidal

In the following video, taken from the 'Curious Cat' series, we see different power stations using different types of fuel including coal, oil, and even rubbish, all of which are burned to make energy.

We also see that energy can be used from the sun, wind and flowing water to make electricity.

How is electricity made?

There are advantages and disadvantages to using both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.

The advantages of fossil fuels include:

  • There is enough coal on Earth to last hundreds of years
  • A small amount of oil or coal can produce a lot of energy
  • The UK has shale gas deposits for natural gas

The main disadvantages are the production of carbon dioxide when burned, contributing to global warming, as well as the extraction (removal) of these energy sources causing potential damage to the water and natural land.

The main advantages of renewable energy sources is that the resources will not run out.

The disadvantages include:

  • Wind turbines and solar panels can cost a lot to build and put in place
  • Some people do not like the look of wind turbines and solar panels or feel that they spoil the natural landscape or the appearance of a building
  • When there is considerable cloud cover or periods of low wind, little or no energy is produced

The following video, taken from 'The Dengineers' series, features a water wheel that is environmentally friendly.

The wheel needs a constant flow of water to keep it moving so, to avoid leaving a tap running, the team have had a pump fitted to the wheel that sucks water up from the pit and transports it to the top of the wheel.

As the water drops back into the bottom it is sucked back up by the pump, through the hose and back round the wheel - this means the water is constantly recycled.

How to create an eco-friendly water wheel.


Now you can try and put some of what you have learned about energy into action.

Activity 1

Try to find the different energy sources in this fun word search from Twinkl.

You will only need a pen and paper for this activity.

Energy word search - Activity 1

Activity 2

Form a plan for your school or home to make use of renewable energy sources.

This could be from installing solar panels to building a water wheel - get creative!

You will only need a pen and paper for this activity.

Where next?

Continue your learning with these links:

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

More lessons for Year 1 and P2
Primary Design and Technology
BBC Teach Design and Technology