For millions of years, our planet has permanently received energy from the Sun, which has modified our environment and allowed the development of life. Today, most of the energy we use comes directly or indirectly from this star.
Energy sources are elements of nature from which energy can be extracted. Humanity has used these energy resources throughout its history to boost its development and improve its living conditions.
Energy sources are usually classified as renewable energy sources and non-renewable energy sources, as we will see below:
Renewable energy sources:
Renewable energy sources are those whose rate of use is lower than their rate of renewal, that is, after being used they regenerate naturally or artificially. The main sources of renewable energy are:
When the radiant energy from the Sun raises the temperature of the oceans and the large bodies of water are activated, it is known as the hydrological cycle. In this cycle, the water that evaporates is transferred to higher continental regions, from where it precipitates in the form of rain or snow, mainly. When this water descends, due to the effect of gravitational potential energy, it gives rise to water channels known as rivers.
When the river’s fluid moves, kinetic energy is produced; and when said water is stored in a dam it is retained in the form of gravitational potential energy, which is used to generate hydroelectric energy, that is, electrical energy that is obtained from the transformation of the potential and kinetic energy of water.
The movement of ocean waters
The movement of ocean waves occurs mainly as a result of winds and storms. On the other hand, the tides originate from the gravitational attraction of the Moon and the Sun. Today, a series of technologies capable of obtaining electrical energy from this source have been developed.
This energy is known as marine energy: tidal (when it uses the energy of the tides), wave (when using the energy of the waves) and thermal conversion (OTEC, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) (when the thermal energy of the sun absorbed by the oceans).
The spherical shape of our planet allows energy from the Sun to be distributed irregularly over the atmosphere, oceans and the earth’s surface. Consequently, there are regions that receive more energy and others that receive less. When certain areas of the atmosphere heat up less than others, the movement of the large masses of gas that make it up occurs, and with it, the winds (when the air movements are horizontal) and the air currents (when the movements are vertical). This energy source has been used since ancient times to move vessels in the oceans or to spin windmills. The energy associated with this renewable source is known as wind energy.
Organic matter also stores energy from the Sun, in the form of chemical energy. Plants and some microorganisms are able to store the energy of the Sun from the process of photosynthesis, in which sunlight, water, and CO2 present in the atmosphere are used to form molecules based on carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
Animal, industrial, agricultural, forestry, urban and sewage waste are also sources of organic matter. The energy obtained from said source is called energy biomass.
As we mentioned, almost all of the energy that allows our planet’s processes comes directly or indirectly from the Sun. The Sun is a star whose energy is produced from nuclear fusion, in which hydrogen atoms fuse to generate helium atoms. In this process, a large amount of radiation is released, including infrared radiation, which raises the temperature of the earth’s surface, and visible light, which allows a series of biological processes necessary to sustain life on Earth. The energy that is used directly from the Sun is called solar energy.
The internal heat of the Earth
The temperature of the lower layers of the Earth – mantle, and core – is very high, mainly due to the decay of radioactive materials inside, such as uranium and potassium, among others. High temperatures rise in fractures of the earth’s crust and manifest themselves in the form of geysers, fumaroles, boiling mud wells, volcanoes, and hot springs. In certain regions, this internal heat of the Earth is used to produce electricity. The energy associated with this source is called geothermal energy.
Non-Renewable Energy Sources:
Non-renewable sources are those in which the resource is limited and is depleted to the extent that it is used. Therefore, its consumption rate is higher than that of regeneration. Non-renewable energy sources are:
They correspond to resources whose origin is due to the degradation of plant and animal remains that were buried by a sedimentation process, being trapped in lower strata of the earth’s crust millions of years ago. Fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas. The electrical energy obtained from the use of the said resource is called thermoelectric energy.
The power of the atom
Uranium is an element from which energy is extracted through the division of the nuclei of its atoms. This process is known as nuclear fission: when a nucleus of uranium is divided, a large amount of energy is generated in the form of radiation and heat. Heat is used to produce electricity known as nuclear energy or thermonuclear energy.