Energy exists all around us and there are a number of different types of energy. The food that we eat is broken down in our bodies and gives us the energy that we need to run, play, and even think.
- The word ‘energy’ actually originates from the ancient Green word “energeia”.
- Energy can never be destroyed, only rearranged or changed. This is called the law of conservation.
- Almost all types of energy are either ‘potential energy’ or ‘kinetic energy’
- The energy in lightning is potential energy and can be changed into light, sound, and heat energy.
Kinetic energy is the kind that is caused due to the movement of an object. A baseball has kinetic energy when you throw it. A car also has kinetic energy when it is moving.
- Some of the most common types of energy include elastic potential energy, heat energy, sound energy, chemical energy, geothermal energy, nuclear energy, and gravitational potential energy.
- Food energy is another type that is measured in ‘joules’ or calories.
- An example of gravitational potential energy might be someone who is standing on the diving board of a swimming pool. They have energy stored up that can be released upon diving.
We are all familiar with pulling or stretching a rubber band and what happens when you let go. This is called elastic potential energy. The build of energy in pulling and stretching the band.
- Chemical energy is a type of energy that exists and then is transformed into light or heat.
- Plants create their own energy through a process called photosynthesis. They use the sun’s energy and convert it into the energy they need for their food.
When someone talks about renewable or sustainable energy they are referring to an energy source that is natural on the earth and can be used without harming the earth. Renewable energy constantly renews itself and sustainable energy can be used without causing harm or pollution.
Examples of renewable energy can be solar, wind, hydrothermal and geothermal energies. Examples of sustainable energies can be biomass energy, which is the energy that is created when things degrade or rot.
Non-renewable energy is energy that is created using resources that cannot be replenished. Types of non-renewable energy includes: oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear. These types of energy sources use of the natural resources and are not good for the earth. The ‘fossil fuel’ category includes oil, coal and gas.
Nuclear power is another type of energy that is caused by chemical reactions. While it supplies nearly 13% of the electricity used in the world, it is also one of the least safe. The byproducts from nuclear fusion creates radioactive waste that can take thousands of years before the radioactivity is removed.
Germany is one of the few countries that has made the decision to phase out their use of nuclear energy all together. After the nuclear plant problems in Japan due to the tsunami of 2013, Japan has joined German in the same decision.
In 2013, the United States used about 90% of its energy from nonrenewable sources. The use of biomass (waste, wood, biofuels) accounted for only about 5% of the all of the energy used. By the year 2014, the U.S. used 24.7% in renewable energy sources.
- Countries around the world are changing their focus from nonrenewable energy sources to renewable. Scotland has become one of the few countries that has almost all of their energy from wind turbines and hydrothermal.
- As the world continues to increase its need for more and more energy, there are new businesses developing to answer the call to create energy through renewable sources.
Nonrenewable energy creates pollution and depletes the earth. Organizations around the world are working together to create new guidelines and suggestions for countries and communities to encourage the use of sustainable and renewable energy to reduce pollution levels.