Understanding Energy Generation
Understanding the basics of energy generation, how it makes its way to us and who exactly is supplying it, is crucial understanding how and why it is so important. Over the next few months we will be compiling a simple series of blog posts that will look to answer these questions in a straightforward and hopefully informative way.
In this, our first in the series, we will be looking at How Energy is Generated.
In the UK we generate our energy from four main sources; Fossil Fuels, Nuclear Power, Gas and Renewables:
As a species we have been using fossil fuels to produce energy for thousands of years. The three main forms of fossil fuel are Coal, Oil and Natural Gas.Millions of years old, they are the result of intense pressure underground, where rock has piled upon rock on top of dead trees and plants. Coal is seen as perhaps the most important of the three and responsible for the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, thanks to its ability to power steam engines at a much cheaper price than wood.
Up until recently it was a very popular form of energy creation even today, powering a number of stations across the country. Thanks to international emissions laws this has now changed, with very few stations left that are completely dependent and the industry accused of being in decline. As renewable options become more affordable and people begin to focus on energy efficiency, the popularity of Fossil Fuels continue to fall.
Nuclear Power requires the release of Nuclear Energy from nuclear reactions to generate heat. The heat developed can then be used to power steam turbines, which in turn generate electricity. Currently in the UK we have eight nuclear power stations in operation, but there are big plans for this number to increase over the next 10 years.
Currently the government are in talks with China to help them fund at least four more power plants at Hinkley Point, Bradwell in Essex and Sizewell. Hinkley Point is likely to be the most expensive plant in the world, costing £24 billion. Despite a history of incidents in which nuclear power has become unstable, the last just four years ago in Japan, nuclear power’s ability to run for long periods, and its plentiful and cheap nature in comparison to fossil fuels, makes it a highly attractive option.
The Gas we use for energy generation in the UK comes in one of two forms; conventional and unconventional. This natural gas is known as a hydrocarbon and in most instances will come in the form of methane.
Conventional Gas reaches us from three main sources; drilling in the North Sea, transportation through interconnector pipelines from Europe or liquefied and transported on shipping containers from further afield. It is extracted through orthodox means, with drilling and injection methods used to take advantage of the natural pressure of wells.
Unconventional Gas involves Shale Gas, a new source that is highly controversial thanks to the method used to obtain it, called Fracking. Fracking involves the process of drilling too, but requires high pressure fluid injection to fracture rocks that hold shale gas within them. There are 600 chemicals used in this fracking fluid that include radium and uranium that can potentially contaminate nearby water supplies. Although the cause of great debate, it is something that the UK government sees as having huge potential for our energy production
Lastly are Renewable Energy sources. This form is generated either through Wind, Solar or Biomass.
Wind Energy is considered the world’s fasted growing renewable option, with the UK considered ideal thanks to our high generation of wind. Both off-shore and on-shore types are available, but again debate is rife. Although a single turbine is estimated to generate the electricity for the annual needs of 1,400 households, there is opposition from those who think that the visual impact and threats to wildlife aren’t worth compromising on.
Solar Power takes heat and light from the sun to produce energy, highly effective in the right circumstances. The burning of Biomass Fuels is also seen as a way to meet our emissions targets and keep our carbon footprint at a lower rate. There are again arguments against though, with critics saying that renewable options produce too little energy, and that the generation levels themselves are unpredictable. Thanks to this it becomes very difficult to focus all our efforts on increasing it.
So that is How Energy is Generated in a nutshell. For more information, or to find out the part that Energycentric plays in all this, feel free to call us on 01708 765555, or email us with your query.
Our next blog in the series will be Understanding Energy Supply, detailing exactly how energy finds its way into our homes.