Nuclear Energy

What is Nuclear Energy?  
Nuclear energy is energy that comes form the nucleus (core) of an atom. Atoms are the particles that make up all objects in the universe. Atoms consist of neutrons, protons, and electrons. Nuclear energy is released from an atom through one of two processes: nuclear fission. In nuclear fusion, energy is released when the nuclei of atoms are combined or fused together. This is how the sun produces energy. In nuclear fission, energy is released when the nuclei of atoms are split apart. Nuclear fission is the only method currently used by nuclear plants to generate electricity. 
 
What is Uranium?  
The fuel by nuclear power plants for fissioning is uranium. Uranium is the heaviest of the 92 naturally occurring elements and is classified as a metal. It is also one of the few elements that are easily fissioned. Uranium was formed when the earth was created and is found in rocks all over the world. Rocks that contain a lot of uranium are called uranium ore, or pitchblende. Uranium, although abundant, is a nonrenewable energy source. 

Two forms (isotopes) or uranium are found in nature, uranium-235 and uranium-238. These numbers refer to the number of neutrons and protons in each atom. Uranium-235 is the form commonly used for energy production because, unlike uranium-238, its nucleus splits easily when bombarded by a neutron, causing its nucleus to split apart into two atoms of lighter weight. 

At the same time, the fission reaction releases energy as heat and radiation, as well as releasing more neutrons. The newly released neutrons go on to bombard other uranium atoms, and the process repeats itself over and over. This is called a chain reaction. 
 
The Nuclear Fuel Cycle 
The steps-from mining the uranium ore, through its use in a nuclear reactor, to its disposal-is called the nuclear fuel cycle. 

  • Mining – The first step in the cycle is mining the uranium ore. Workers mine uranium ore much like coal miner mine coal-in deep underground mines or in open-pit surface mines. A tone of uranium ore in the United States typically contains three to ten pounds of uranium. 
  • Milling – After it has been mined, uranium or is crushed. The crushed ore is usually mixed with an acid, which dissolves the uranium, but not the rest of the crushed rock. The acid solution is drained off and dried, leaving a yellow powder called yellowcake, consisting mostly of uranium. This process of removing uranium form the ore is called uranium milling. 
  • Conversion – The next step in the cycle is the conversion of the yellowcake into a gas called uranium hexafluoride, or UF6. The uranium hexafluoride is then shipped to a gaseous diffusion plant for enrichment. 
  • Enrichment – Because less than one percent of uranium ore contains uranium-235, the form used for energy production, uranium must be processed to increase the concentration of uranium-235. This process-called enrichment-increases the percentage of uranium-235 from one to five percent. It typically takes place at a gaseous diffusion plant where the uranium hexafluoride is pumped through filters that contain very tiny holes. Because uranium-235 has three fewer neutrons and it one percent lighter than uranium-238, it moves through the holes more easily then uranium-238. This method increases the percentage of uranium-235 as the gas passes through thousands of filters. 
  • Fuel Fabrication – The enriched uranium is taken to a fuel fabrication plant where it is prepared from the nuclear reactor. Here, the uranium is made into a solid ceramic material and formed into small barrel-shaped pellets. These ceramic fuel pellets can withstand very high temperatures, just like the ceramic tiles on the space shuttle. Fuel pellets are about the size of your fingertip, yet each one can produce as much energy as 120 gallons of oil. The pellets are sealed in 12-foot metal tubes called fuel rods. Finally, the fuel rods are bundled into groups called fuel assemblies. 
  • Nuclear Reactor – The uranium fuel is now ready for use in a nuclear reactor. Fissioning takes place in the reactor core. Surrounding the core of the reactor is a shell called the reactor pressure vessel. To prevent heat or radiation leaks, the reactor core and the vessel are housed in an airtight containment building made of steel and concrete several feet thick. The reactor core houses about 200 fuel assemblies. Spaced between the fuel assemblies are movable control rods. Control rods absorb neutrons and slow down the nuclear reaction. Water also flows through the fuel assemblies and control rods to remove some of the heat from the chain reaction. The nuclear reaction generates heat energy just as burning coal or oil generates heat energy. Likewise, the heat is used to boil water into steam, which turns a turbine generator to produce electricity. Afterward, the steam is condensed back into water and cooled in a separate structure called a cooling tower. This way, the water can be used again and again. 
  • Spent Fuel Storage – Like most industries, nuclear power plants produce waste. One of the main concerns about nuclear power plants is not the amount of waste created, which is quite small compared to other industries, but the radioactivity of some of that waste. The fission process creates radioactive waste products. After about three cycles, these waste products build up in the fuel rods, making the chain reaction more difficult. Utility companies generally replace one-third of the fuel rods every 12 to 18 months to keep power plants in continuous operation. The spent fuel is usually stored near the reactor I a deep pool of water called the spent fuel pool. During storage, the spent fuel cools down and begins to lose most of its radioactivity through radioactive decay. In three months, the spent fuel will lose 50 percent of its radiation; in one year, 80 percent; in 10 years, 90 percent. The spent fuel pool is intended as a temporary method for storing nuclear waste. Eventually, the spent fuel will be reprocessed and/or transported to a permanent federal disposal site. 
  • Reprocessing – Spent fuel contains both radioactive waste products and unused nuclear fuel. In fact, about one-third on the nuclear fuel remains unused when the fuel rod must be replaced. Reprocessing separates the unused nuclear fuel from the waste products so that it can be used in a reactor again. Currently, American nuclear power plants store the spent fuel in spent fuel pools-without reprocessing. Why? Mainly because reprocessing is more expensive than making new fuel from uranium ore. If uranium prices rise significantly or storage becomes a bigger problem, reprocessing may gain favor in the industry. 

Waste Repository 
Most scientists believe the safest way to store nuclear waste is in rock formations deep underground called geological repositories. In 1982, the U.S. Congress agreed and passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. This law directed the U.S. Department of Energy to site, design, construct, and operate America’s first repository by 1998. The repository stores radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and from defense weapons plants. The same law also established the Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for the repository.  

People who use electricity from nuclear power plants pay 1/10 of a cent for each kilowatt-hour of nuclear-generated electricity they use. An average household, which uses about 7,500 kilowatt-hour a year, would contribute $7.50 a year to the fund if it got all its electricity from nuclear power.  

The nation has collected $14 billion into the fund since 1982. In 1987, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act. Among others things, this act proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the nation’s first repository site. If the current plan is approved, nuclear waste will be sealed in steel canisters and stored in vaults located 1,000 feet below the surface. Current projections are that it may open about 2010. Yucca Mountain is being studied as a repository site because it is dry and geologically stable (the chance of erupting volcanoes or earth-quakes is very slim). Yucca Mountain site is also isolated. Few people live in the area. Although utility companies currently sore their nuclear waste in pools of water at the power plant, some companies will run out of storage space in the next year or two.  

Utility companies are asking the Department of Energy to accept responsibility for the waste. The Department of Energy would need to store the waste in a temporary facility prior to its final burial at the repository. 
 
Nuclear Energy Use 
Nuclear energy is an important source of electricity-second only to coal-providing almost 18 percent of the electricity in the U.S. At the end of 1997m there were 107 nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. No new plants are planned for the future. Worldwide, however, nuclear energy is a growing source of electrical power. Nuclear energy now provides about 17 percent of the world’s electricity. The U.S., France, Japan, and Germany are the world leaders. France gets 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. 
 
Nuclear Energy and the Environment 
Nuclear power plants have very little impact on the environment. Generating electricity from nuclear power produces no air pollution because no fuel is burned. Most of the water used in the cooling processes is recycles. In the future, using nuclear energy may become an important way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels and biomass. Carbon dioxide is considered the major greenhouse gas. People are using more and more electricity. Some experts predict that we will have to use nuclear energy to produce the amount of electricity people need at a cost they can afford. Whether or not we should use nuclear energy to produce electricity has become a controversial and sometimes highly emotional issue. 
 
Nuclear Safety 
The greatest potential risk from nuclear power plants is the release of high-level radiation. In the United States, plants are carefully designed to contain radiation, and emergency plans are in place to alert and advise nearby residents if there is an accident. Two serious accidents have occurred since the industry began over 30 years ago-Three Mile Island in the Unites States (1979) and Chernobyl in the Soviet Union (1986).  

At Three Mile Island, about half the uranium fuel melted when water to the reactor core was inadvertently cut off. A small amount of radioactive material escaped into the surrounding area before the mistake was discovered. But due to the safety design features of the plant-multiple barriers contained most of the radiation-no one was injured or died as a result of this accident.  

However, the accident at Chernobyl was far more serious. It happened when two explosions blew the top off the reactor building. A lack of containment structures and other design flaws caused the release of a large amount of radioactive material into the surrounding area. More than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes and about 200 workers were treated for radiation sickness and burns; 31 or them died.  

Could a Chernobyl-type accident occur at an American nuclear plant? Many experts say no. Old soviet nuclear plants do not have the safety systems and containment chambers that are standard on all American plants. American operators are also better trained than their Eastern European counterparts to respond to any problems that may occur. 


Hydrogen

What is Hydrogen?
Hydrogen is the simplest element. A hydrogen atom has only one proton and one electron. It is also the most abundant gas in the universe, and the source of all the energy we receive from the sun. The sun is basically a giant ball of hydrogen and helium gases. In a process called fusion, four hydrogen atoms combine to form one helium atom, releasing energy as radiation.  

 This radiation energy is our most abundant energy source. It gives us light and heat and makes plants grow. It causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall. It is stored as chemical energy in fossil fuels. Most of the energy we use originally came from the sun. 

 Hydrogen as a gas (H2), however, doesn’t exist naturally on earth. It is found only in compound form. Combined with oxygen, it is water (H2O). Combined with carbon, it forms organic compounds such as methane (CH4), coal, and petroleum. It is found in all growing things-biomass. It is one of the most abundant elements in the earth’s crust. 

 Most of the energy we use today comes from fossil fuels. Only seven percent comes from renewable energy sources. But people want to use more renewable energy. Usually it is cleaner, and we won’t run out of it. We won’t run out of hydrogen either. 

Every day, we use more fuel, principally coal, to produce electricity. Electricity is a secondary source of energy. Secondary sources of energy-energy carriers-are used to store, move, and deliver energy in easily usable form. We convert energy to electricity because it is easier for us to transport and use. Try splitting an atom, building a dam, or burning coal to run your TV. Energy carriers make life easier. 

Hydrogen is one of the most promising energy carriers for the future. It is a high efficiency, low polluting fuel that can be used for transportation in places where it is difficult to use electricity. Since hydrogen gas is not found in its nature state on earth, it must be manufactured. There are several ways to do this. 
 
How is Hydrogen Made? 
Industry produces the hydrogen it needs by a process called steam reforming. High-temperature steam separates hydrogen from the carbon atoms in natural gas (CH4). The hydrogen produced by this method isn’t used as a fuel, but in the manufacture of fertilizers and chemical s and to upgrade the quality of petroleum products. 

This is the most cost-effective way to produce hydrogen today, but it uses fossil fuels both in the manufacturing process and as the heat source. Another way to make hydrogen is by electrolysis-splitting water into its basic elements, hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolysis involves passing an electric current through water to separate the atoms (2H2O + electricity = 2H2 +O2). Hydrogen collects at the negatively charged cathode and oxygen at the positive anode. 

 Hydrogen produced by electrolysis is extremely pure, and electricity from renewable energy sources can be used, but it is very expensive at this time. Today, hydrogen from electrolysis is ten times as costly as natural gas and three times as costly as gasoline per Btu. 

 On the other hand, water is abundant and renewable, and technological advances in renewable electricity could make electrolysis a more attractive way to produce hydrogen in the future. 

There are also several experimental methods of producing hydrogen. Photoelectrolysis uses sunlight to split water molecules into its components. A semiconductor absorbs the energy from the sun and acts as an electrode to separate the water molecules. 

 In biomass gasification, wood chips and agricultural wastes are super-heated until they turn into hydrogen and other gases. Biomass can also be used to provide the heat energy. Scientists have also discovered that some algae and bacteria produce hydrogen under certain conditions, using sunlight as their energy source. Experiments are underway to find ways to induce these microbes to produce hydrogen efficiently. 
 
Hydrogen Uses 
At the present time, hydrogen’s main use as a fuel is in the NASA space program. Liquid nitrogen is the fuel that has propelled the space shuttle and other rockets since the 1970’s. Hydrogen fuel cells power the shuttle’s electrical systems, producing pure water, which is used by the crew as drinking water. 

In the future, however, hydrogen will join electricity as an important energy carrier. Hydrogen can be made safely from renewable energy sources and is virtually non-polluting. It is also versatile; it can be a fuel for “zero-emissions” vehicles, to heat homes and offices, to produce electricity, and to fuel aircraft. Cost is the major obstacle. 

The first widespread use of hydrogen will probably be as an additive to transportation fuels. Hydrogen can be combined with gasoline, ethanol, methanol, and natural gas to increase performance and reduce pollution. Adding just 5 percent hydrogen to gasoline can reduce nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions by 30 to 40 percent in today’s engines. 

An engine converted to burn pure hydrogen produces only water and minor amounts of NOX as exhaust. A few hydrogen-powered transportation systems we have today? (Just think of the thousands of filling stations across the country, and production and distribution systems that serve them.) Change will come slowly to this industry, but hydrogen is a versatile fuel; it can be used in many ways. 

For example, hydrogen is a natural as aircraft fuel. Its high-energy contents mean reduced weight and fuel consumption compared to current jet fuel. Plus, it is non-polluting. And converting to hydrogen fuel would be much easier for aircraft-the infrastructure (support system) is simpler. The space shuttle uses hydrogen fuel cells (batteries) to run its computer systems.  

The fuel cells basically reverse electrolysis-hydrogen and oxygen are combined to produce electricity. Hydrogen fuel cells are very efficient and produce only water as a by-product, but they are expensive to build. With technological advances, small fuel cells could someday power electric vehicles and larger fuel cells could provide electricity in remote areas. 

Because of cost, hydrogen will not produce electricity on a wide scale in the near future. It may, though, be added to natural gas to reduce emissions from existing power plants. As the production of electricity from renewables increases, so will the need for energy storage and transportation. Many of these sources-especially solar and wind-are located far from population centers and produce electricity only part of the time. Hydrogen may be the perfect carrier for this energy. It can store the energy and distribute it to wherever it is needed. It is estimated that transmitting electricity long distances is four times more expensive than shipping hydrogen by pipeline. 
 
The Future of Hydrogen 
Before hydrogen can take its place in the U.S. energy picture, many new systems must be designed and built. There must be large production and storage facilities and a distribution system. And consumers must have the technology to use it. The use of hydrogen raises concerns about safety. Hydrogen is a volatile gas with high energy content. Early skeptics had similar concerns about natural gas and gasoline-even about electricity. People were afraid to let their children too near to light bulbs. As hydrogen technologies develop, safety issues will be addressed. Hydrogen can be produced, stored, and used as safely as other fuels. The goal of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Program is for hydrogen to produce ten percent of our total energy demand by the year 2030. Hydrogen can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provide clean, renewable energy for the future. 


Electricity

The Nature of Electricity 
Electricity is a little different from the other sources of energy that we talk about. Unlike coal, petroleum, or solar energy, electricity is a secondary (not primary) source of energy. That means we must use other (primary) sources of energy to make electricity. It also means we can’t classify electricity as a renewable or nonrenewable form of energy. The energy source we use to make electricity may be renewable or nonrenewable, but electricity is neither. 
 
Making Electricity 
Almost all electricity made in the United States is generated by large, central power plants. These plants typically use coal, nuclear fission, natural gas, or other energy sources to produce heat energy which superheats water into steam. The very high pressure of the steam (75-100 times normal atmospheric pressure) turns the blades of a turbine. (At a hydroelectric plant, the force of falling water turns the blades.) The blades are connected to a generator which houses a large magnet surrounded by a coiled copper wire. The blades spin the magnet rapidly, rotating the magnet inside the coil and producing an electric current. The steam, which is still very hot but back to normal pressure, now goes to a condenser where it is cooled into water by passing it through pipes circulating over a large body of water or cooling tower. The water then returns to the boiler to be used again. Power plants can capture some of the heat from the cooling stream. In old plants, the heat was simply wasted. 
 
Moving Electricity from power Plants to Homes 
We are using more and more electricity every year. One reason electricity is used so much, it’s easy to move from one place to another. Electricity can be produced at a power plant and moved long distances before it is used. Let’s follow the path of electricity from power plant to a light bulb in your home. 

  • First, the electricity is generated at the power plant. Next, it goes by wire to a transformer that “steps up” the voltage. A transformer step up the voltage of electricity from the 2,300 to 22,000 volts produced by a generator to as much as 765,000 volts (345,000 volts is typical). Power companies step up the voltage because less electricity is lost along the lines when the voltage is high. 
  • The electricity is then sent on a nationwide network of transmission lines made of aluminum. Transmission lines are the huge tower lines you may see when you’re on a highway. The lines are interconnected. Should one line fail, another will take over the load. 
  • Step-down transformers located at substations along the lines reduce the voltage to 12,000 volts. Substations are small buildings or fenced-in yards containing switches, transformers, and other electrical equipment. 
  • Electricity is then carried over distribution lines which bring electricity to your home. Distribution lines may either by overhead or underground. Overhead distribution line are the electric lines that you see along streets. 
  • Before electricity enters your house, the voltage is reduced again at another transformer, usually a large gray can mounted on an electric pole. This transformer reduces the electricity to the 120 volts that are needed to run the light bulb in your home. 
  • Electricity enters your house through a three-wire cable. The “live wires” are then brought from the circuit breaker or fuse box to power outlets and wall switches in your home. An electric meter measures how much electricity you use so the utility company can bill you. 
  • The time it takes for electricity to travel through these steps–from the power plant to the light bulb in your home–is a tiny fraction of one second! 

 
Power to the People 
Everyone knows how important electricity is to our lives. All it takes is a power failure to remind us how much we depend on it. Life would be very different without electricity–no more instant light from flicking a switch; no more television; no more refrigerators; or stereos; or video games; or hundreds of other conveniences we take for granted. You could almost say the American economy runs on electricity. It’s the business of electric utility companies to make sure electricity is there when we need it. How do they do it? First, some terms: reliability, capacity, base load, power pools, and peak demand. 

  • Reliability is the capability of a utility company to provide electricity to its customers 100 percent of the time. A reliable electric service is without blackouts or brownouts. To ensure uninterrupted electric service, laws require most utility companies to have 15-20 percent more capacity than they need to meet peak demands. This means a utility company whose peak load is 12,000MW, would need to have about 14,000 MW of installed electrical capacity. This helps ensure there will be enough electricity to go around even if equipment were to break down on a hot summer afternoon. 
  • Capacity is the total quantity of electricity a utility company has online and ready to deliver when people need it. A large utility company may operate several plants to generate electricity for it customers. A utility company has seven 1,000-MW (megawatt) plants, eight 500-MW plants, and 30 100-MW plants has a total capacity of 14,000-MW. 
  • Base-load Power is the electricity generated by utility companies around-the-clock, using the most inexpensive energy sources–usually coal, nuclear, and hydropower. Base-load power stations usually run at full or near capacity, 
  • When many people want electricity at the same time, there is a Peak Demand. Power companies must be ready for peak demands so there is enough power for everyone. During the day’s peak, between 12:00 noon and 6:00 p.m., additional generating equipment has to be used to meet increased demand. This equipment is more expensive to operate. These peak load generators run on natural gas, diesel or hydro and can be running in seconds. The more this equipment is used, the higher our utility bills. By managing the use of electricity during the peak hours, we can help keep costs down. 
  • The use of Power Pools is another way electric companies make their systems more reliable. Power pools link utilities together so they can share power as it is needed. A power failure in one system can be covered by a neighboring power company until the problem is corrected. There are nine regional power pool networks in North America. The key is to share power rather than lost it. 

 
The reliability of U.S. electric service is excellent, usually better than 99 percent. In some countries, electric power may go out several times in a day. Power outages in the United States are usually caused by such random occurrences as lightning, a tree limb falling no electric wires, or a car hitting a utility pole. 


Safety Tips For Different Kinds of Energy

 We use many kinds of energy every day. Sometimes, energy can be dangerous. Here are some ways to stay safe.  

Natural Gas Safety We use natural gas to warm our homes, cook our food, and heat our water. Natural gas is burned to make heat. That means there is a fire in the furnace and in the water heater. There is even fire on the stove. Fires can always be dangerous. Do not play near the furnace, water heater, or stove. Never touch them unless an adult is with you. Natural gas can also be dangerous if there is a leak. The gas company puts a special smell in natural gas. It smells really bad, like rotten eggs. That smell lets you know if there is a gas leak. Your parents or your teacher can show you how it smells. If you ever smell natural gas, do not use the phone or turn on the lights. Leave your house right away. Never light a match or start a fire if there is a gas leak. 
 
Petroleum Safety We use petroleum for lots of jobs. Gasoline runs our cars and our lawn mowers. Sometimes we burn oil in our furnace for heat. We burn kerosene in lanterns. All of these fuels can be dangerous. You should never put them in your mouth or breathe their fumes. They also burn easily and can cause fires. Tell an adult if there is a spill and stay away from it. Do not try to clean it up yourself. 
 
Propane Safety Propane is used in gas grills and on farms for heat. Propane is stored in tanks. It can be dangerous. Never touch a propane tank. If you hear propane leaking from a tank, or smell gas, tell an adult and stay away. Companies add that same rotten egg smell to propane. Never light a match near a leaking tank of propane. 
 
Electrical Safety Electricity is amazing. We use it many times every day. It gives us heat and light and runs appliances-our TV’s, computers, refrigerators, hair dryers, and washers. Electricity can be dangerous. It can cause fires and injuries, even death. Here are some rules for using electricity safely: 

  • Do not pun anything in an outlet except a plug. 
  • Do not pull on the cord to unplug an appliance-hold the plug and pull. 
  • Dry your hands before you plug in or unplug a cord. 
  • If a plug is broken or a cord is cut or worn, do not use it. 
  • Turn of a light or unplug it before changing a light bulb. 
  • Never touch the inside of an appliance while it’s plugged in. 
  • Keep appliances away from water. Do not use a hair dryer near a sink with water in it. 
  • If there’s a big storm, turn off the TV and computer. 
  • Do not touch any power lines outside. 
  • Some power lines are underground. If you’re digging, and find a wire, do not touch it. 
  • Do not fly a kite or climb a tree near a power line. 

Tips for Saving Energy

Most of the energy we use today comes from coal, oil, and natural gas. They are fossil fuels, and they take millions of years to form. We can’t make more quickly. They are nonrenewable. We need to save energy whenever we can. Here’s the good news: You can help. 

Reduce Waste A good way to save energy is by not wasting things. Do not use paper plates or cups all the time. You only use them once and then throw them away. This is wasteful. Write on both sides of your paper, or use a lunch box and thermos instead of paper bags and box drinks. Buy one big bottle of juice instead of six little ones, or maybe one big bag of chips-not ten little ones. Buy things without a lot of packaging. Some candy has more plastic around it than food in it. What a waste! Reducing waste saves energy. It takes energy to make things and to get rid of them. 

Reuse Things Try to use things more than once. Wash out plastic sandwich bags and use them again. Use the comics from newspapers to wrap presents. Buy toys at yard sales and you can save energy and money, too. Fix old things whenever you can. Give your old clothes and toys to someone who needs them-do not just throw them away. It’s not too difficult to reuse or re-purpose things.  

Recycle You can recycle lots of things-cans, paper, glass, and plastic. It only takes a minute to recycle, and it saves energy! It takes a lot of energy to dig up metal and make a can. It only takes a little energy to make a new can from an old one. And cans can be recycled over and over again. Plastic bottles can be recycled into clothes and rugs. Paper can be recycled into boxes and bags. Do not throw away anything you can recycle, and check with your local government to see if there are any additional rules to follow. 

Save Electricity You use a lot of electricity every day. Use only what you need. Do not turn on two lights if you only need one. Remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room. Turn off the TV and video games too. On a sunny day, read by a window. It’s a simple way to save energy. Keep the refrigerator door closed. Know what you want before you open the door. If you’re pouring a drink, do not leave the door open. It takes a lot of energy to cool things. If the air conditioner is on, keep doors and windows closed. Do not go in and out, in and out. If you can, just use a fan and wear light clothes. 

Save Heat It takes a lot of energy to heat houses and water. If the heat is on, keep doors and windows closed. Wear warm clothes instead of turning up the heat. At night, use blankets to stay warm. 
When you take a bath, use only the water you need. And do not stand in the shower for a long time. Heating water uses energy. 

Save Gasoline It takes a lot of energy to operate a car. Walk or ride your bike wherever you can. If you and some of your friends are going to the same place, go together. This is called carpooling. Take the bus instead of asking for a ride to school. 

You can make a difference! The things you do every day make a difference. If everyone saves just a little energy, it adds up to a lot. 


What is energy?

Energy helps us to do things. It gives us light. It warms our bodies and heats our homes. It bakes a cake and keeps our milk cold. It runs our TVs and our cars. It makes us grow and move and think. ENERGY IS THE ABILITY TO DO WORK. 

Energy gives us light. Light is a type of energy we use all the time. We use it so that we can see when it is dark. We get most of our light from the sun. That’s why we stay awake during the day. It saves money. Sunlight is free. At night, we must make our own light. Usually, we use electricity to make light. Flashlights use electricity too. This electricity comes from batteries.  

Energy makes things grow. All living things need energy to grow. Plants use light from the sun to grow. They store the energy from the sun in their roots and leaves. Animals can’t store light energy like plants. Animals, including people, eat plants, and use the energy stored in the plants to grow. They store the energy from plants in their muscles. 

Energy gives us heat. We use energy to make heat. The food we eat keeps our bodies warm. Sometimes, when we run or work really hard, we get hot. In the winter, our jackets and blankets hold in our body heat. We use the energy stored in plants and other things to make heat. We burn wood and natural gas to cook food and warm our houses. Factories burn fuel to make the products they sell. Some types of power plants burn coal to make electricity. 

Energy makes things move. It takes energy to make things move. Cars run on the energy stored in gasoline. Many toys run on the energy stored in batteries. Sailboats are pushed by the energy in the wind. After a long day, do you ever feel too tired to move? You’ve run out of energy! You need to eat some food to refuel. 

Energy runs machines. It takes energy to run our TVs, computers and video games-energy in the form of electricity. We use electricity many times every day. It gives us light and heat, it makes things move, and it runs our toys and microwaves. Try to imagine what your life would be like without electricity. We make electricity by burning coal, oil, gas, and even trash. We make it from the energy that holds atoms together. We make it with energy from the sun, the wind, and falling water. Sometimes, we use heat from inside the earth to make electricity. 

Energy doesn’t disappear. There is the same amount of today as there was when the world began. When we use energy, we do not use it up. We change it into another type of energy. When we burn wood, we change its energy into heat. When we drive a car, we change the energy in gasoline into heat and motion. There will always be the same amount of energy in the world. But more and more of it will be changed into heat. Most of that heat will go into the air. It will still be there, but it will be hard to use. 


News: New Energy Outlook 2018 Shows Coal as Biggest Loser

By 2050, renewable energy is set to provide close to 50% of the world’s energy costs. A new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance takes a long-term look at the world’s energy production; according to the report, major gains in renewable energy production will come as a result of massive strides in battery technology. Currently, power storage is one of the largest obstacles to the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. According to the report, wind and solar are set to surge on the back of significant reductions in cost.

Cheaper batteries will enable electricity to be stored and discharged to meet shifts in demand and supply. The report suggests that the average cost of developing a solar photovoltaic plant is expected to drop by 71% in the next 30 years, and the cost of installing a utility-scale wind power plant is expected to drop 58% over the same period.

Unsurprisingly, coal is expected to be the biggest loser in the battle for energy dominance. The report predicts coal to provide just 11% of the world’s power needs by 2050. This number is down from today’s 38%. Despite claims made by U.S. President Donald Trump, close to 40% of US coal plants have been shut down or are marked for closure. To further illustrate, a report from the investment bank Lazard showed that the cost of producing a megawatt-hour of electricity fell to around $50 for solar power in 2017. The same amount of energy costs $102 for coal.

In the first quarter of 2018, solar accounted for 55% of all U.S. electricity added—more than any other type of electricity. Additionally, the price of lithium-ion batteries (the battery used in most electric vehicles) has fallen nearly 80% since 2010. Falling prices for batteries of all types will push the United States’ shift into renewable energy dependence.

The report closes with the expectation that $11.5 trillion will be invested in the renewable energy market between 2018 and 2050. $8.4 trillion is expected to go into wind and solar, while a further $1.5 trillion is expected to fund carbon-neutral power sources like nuclear and hydro.


News: U.S. Imposes Additional 25% Tariff on Chinese Solar Cells

Last week, the United States imposed an additional 25% tariff on imported Chinese solar cells and modules. This marks a steady increase in America’s trade war with another dominating international power. This 25% tariff was created in addition to a 30% tariff the President of the United States imposed on all imported solar cells in modules in January of 2018.

 

Solar cells and modules were included in an extensive list provided to the Chinese government. The United States will also be imposing tariffs on a variety of lubricated oils, resins, silicones, and plastics. The list also includes iron and/or steel in bridge sections, lattice masts, columns, pillars, posts, beams, and girders. For the full list, see the following PDF.

 

The implications of these tariffs are massive. It is unclear how these tariffs will affect the U.S. solar industry; according to the Energy Trade Action Coalition, Chinese products only constituted around 11% of solar cells and modules imported into the United States. Malaysian products constituted a third (31%) whereas Korea had around 21%. The new tariff will likely be much less impactful than January’s 30% tariff, which has already cost the industry around $.25 billion in cancelled projects and lost jobs.

 

Several solar manufacturers have announced new, U.S.-based factories, taking advantage of opportunistic expansions and working on ways to circumvent the import tariff. China’s JinkoSolar announced in April that it would open a U.S. manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Florida; U.S.-based First Solar announced it would open a new manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio.

 

Regardless of the tariffs’ impact on the United States solar industry, the increase marks a dangerous addition to the ongoing trade war between the United States and other major world powers.

 

 


News: Ireland Aims to Reduce Carbon Footprint of Bus Shelters by 88%

Three organizations—JCDecaux, ESB, and Solar AdTek—have recently completed an innovative collaboration to enhance 1,800 bus shelters across Ireland. ESB funded the project in a partnership arrangement with JCDecaux. The latter has a contract for the advertising rights and maintenance of National Transit Authority bus shelters in Dublin and around the country. JDCecaux committed to lower energy consumption worldwide, and this reduction in emissions delivers on that promise.

In addition to cutting the carbon footprint, this initiative has greatly improved the quality of the bus shelters. All fluorescent light bulbs have been removed and replaced with better-quality roof lighting and ad panel LED systems. This technology was provided by Dublin technology company Solar AdTek. The shelters also utilize smart technology which works to regulate the flow of electrical current. This ensures shelter lights are only in use between the hours of dusk and dawn, further reducing energy consumption.

This project is not insignificant. This is the first national co-funded roll-out to be completed between JCDecaux and NTA with ESB. It resulted in the development of Solar and lighting systems used specifically for the outdoor advertising market. The upgrades both increase passenger comfort and significantly reduce energy levels required to provide the service itself. This is just one step in the process of Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

 


News: Renewable Energy is Essential for the Caribbean

Caribbean countries are on high alert for power failures. Puerto Rico’s inconsistent grid, which was severely damaged during the 2017 hurricane season, continues to lose power—some island residents have yet to regain power in the seven months since Hurricane Maria. This phenomenon is part of a larger problem: electric grids across the region are dated, ailing, and overburdened. Powerful passing storms can leave thousands without power for months on end. The solution? Localized, renewable energy sources.

Caribbean nations rely heavily on oil and diesel imports. Governments are attempting to integrate renewable energy sources (wind and solar) into their existing grids, but the task is more urgent now than ever before. In transforming energy grids into utilizing new, greener sources of power, electric grids will become more resilient to weather extremes; they will be decentralized and pull from an array of power sources. With strategically-planned renewable energy, there is always a back-up.

Unfortunately, climate change will likely complicate the Caribbean’s transition into renewable energy. Caribbean islands are the most vulnerable when it comes to rising water levels, changing weather patterns, and other effects of global warming. The region has already experienced these extremes; research suggest that northern Caribbean countries, such as Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, have become rainier over the past three decades. The uptick in severe weather is costly, as it both damages existing systems and puts these countries further in debt.

Additionally, with increasing weather extremes, green energy systems will, in turn, become vulnerable. For example: modern wind turbines can be torn apart in 165mph winds. Changing regional temperatures will dramatically alter the availability of hydro and solar power. Climate change makes it nearly impossible to predict future weather scenarios, so building a system to anticipate a changing climate is difficult.

The Caribbean, however, is doing what it can to shift toward renewable energy sources. Jamaica is aiming to install automated weather stations to collect data, which can be used to build better electric systems. Urban wastewater hydropower plants are being developed for use on Caribbean islands. The future of the islands is uncertain but changing technologies may eventually help these countries navigate their way through climate change.