Energy Explained – Forms of Energy

Onyx Power and Gas Consulting continues a weekly series of a overall view of energy, starting from the basics of what energy is to a detailed analysis of energy on a global scale including renewable energy sources.  This series of news articles should provide a complete course on energy…enjoy, check out archives and come back each week for additional information on how all sorts of energy sources impact our daily lives.

What Is Energy?

Energy makes change possible. We use it to do things for us. It moves cars along the road and boats over the water. It bakes a cake in the oven and keeps ice frozen in the freezer. It plays our favorite songs on the radio and lights our homes. Energy is needed for our bodies to grow and it allows our minds to think.

Scientists define energy as the ability to do work. Modern civilization is possible because we have learned how to change energy from one form to another and use it to do work for us and to live more comfortably.

Forms of Energy

Energy is found in different forms including light, heat, chemical, and motion. There are many forms of energy, but they can all be put into two categories: potential and kinetic.

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We use many different energy sources to do work. Energy sources are classified into two groups — renewable and nonrenewable. Renewable and nonrenewable energy can be converted into secondary energy sources like electricity and hydrogen.

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Most of Our Energy Is Nonrenewable

In the United States, most of our energy comes from nonrenewable energy sources. Coal, petroleum, natural gas, propane, and uranium are nonrenewable energy sources. They are used to make electricity, to heat our homes, to move our cars, and to manufacture all kinds of products.

These energy sources are called nonrenewable because their supplies are limited. Petroleum, for example, was formed millions of years ago from the remains of ancient sea plants and animals. We can’t make more petroleum in a short time.

Use of Renewable Energy Is Growing

Renewable energy sources include biomass, geothermal energy, hydropower, solar energy, and wind energy. They are called renewable energy sources because they are naturally replenished. Day after day, the sun shines, the wind blows, and the rivers flow. We use renewable energy sources mainly to make electricity.

How Are Secondary Sources of Energy Different?

Electricity and hydrogen are different from the other energy sources because they are secondary sources of energy. Secondary sources of energy — energy carriers — are used to store, move, and deliver energy in easily useable form. We have to use another energy source to make electricity or hydrogen. In the United States, coal is the number one energy source for generating electricity.

Today the cheapest way to get hydrogen is by separating it from natural gas, a nonrenewable energy source. Hydrogen can also be separated from water and from renewables, but hydrogen made from these sources is currently too expensive to compete with other fuels. Scientists are working on ways to make hydrogen from water and renewables more affordable.

 Energy Is Neither Created Nor Destroyed

Source: National Energy Education Development Project (Public Domain)

To scientists, “conservation of energy” does not mean saving energy. Instead, the law of conservation of energy says that energy is neither created nor destroyed. When we use energy, it doesn’t disappear. We change it from one form of energy into another.

A car engine burns gasoline, converting the chemical energy in gasoline into mechanical energy. Solar cells change radiant energy into electrical energy. Energy changes form, but the total amount of energy in the universe stays the same.

Converting One Form of Energy Into Another

“Energy efficiency” is the amount of useful energy you get from any type of system. A perfectly energy-efficient machine would change all the energy put in it into useful work. In reality, converting one form of energy into another form always involves a loss of useable energy.

In fact, most energy transformations are not very efficient. The human body is a good example. Your body is like a machine, and the fuel for your machine is food. Food gives you the energy to move, breathe, and think. But your body isn’t very efficient at converting food into useful work. Your body is less than 5% efficient most of the time. The rest of the energy is lost as heat.

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The professional consultants at Onyx Power & Gas Consultant are always ahead of the current issues that may affect energy consumption and pricing. Now is the time to partner with an Onyx professional consultant to discuss energy management and secure energy prices based on today’s stable pricing.  Volatility in the energy markets makes it too precarious to take chances.  Partner with Onyx Power & Gas in Making Energy Make a Difference!

 

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