Sunday, 13 April 2008

Energy - types, advantages and disadvantages

Gas - Advantages
More efficient to burn and easier to transport and distribute (by pipeline and tanker) than coal. Cleaner, cheaper and less harmful to the environment than coal.

Safer than nuclear energy.

Gas - Disadvantages
It is a fossil fuels so adds to global warming and the creation of acid rain.
It is a non-renewable resource so supplies will eventually run out.

Coal - Advantages

Reserves are likely to last for over 300 years.
Improved technology has increased the output per worker, allowed deeper mining with fewer workers and made conversion to electricity more efficient.
Coal also used for heating and making coke.

Coal - Disadvantages

The most easily accessible deposits have been used up and production costs have increased.
There is increasing competition from other types of energy.
It is a fossil fuel and so contributes to global warming and the creation of acid rain.
Deep mining can be dangerous, while opencast mining temporarily harms the environment.
Coal is heavy and bulky to transport.

Nuclear - Advantages

Only very limited amounts of raw materials are needed, e.g. 50 tonnes of uranium per year compared with 540 tonnes of coal per hour needed for coal-fired stations.
Safeguards make the risks of accidents minimal.
Reserves of uranium will last much longer than those of coal and gas.
Waste is limited and can be stored underground.
Nuclear power is believed to contribute less than coal and oil to the greenhouse effect and acid rain.

Nuclear - Disadvantages

It is not clear how safe nuclear power is.
Conservationists argue that one accident may kill many, and ruin an area of ground for hundreds of years.
There are potential health risks. The high incidence of leukaemia around Sellafield and Dounreay has been linked to proximity to nuclear power stations.
Nuclear waste can remain radioactive for many years.
The cost of decommissioning old power stations is extremely high.

HEP - Advantages
Hydro-electricity is renewable and is often produced in highland areas where the population is sparse.
It is a relatively cheap form of power and creates little pollution.
Dams built to store water for HEP production can also reduce risks of flooding and water shortages.

HEP - Disadvantages

Dams are very expensive to build.
Large areas of farmland and wildlife habitats may have to be flooded forcing people and animals to move.
Unsightly pylons can cause visual pollution and there is the
Possibility of the dam collapsing.
Silt, previously spread out over farmland, will be deposited in the lake.
More recently, it has been shown that if an area is flooded, the decaying vegetation can release methane and carbon dioxide - two greenhouse gases.

Solar- Advantages

Pollution free
Limitless in supply

Solar - Disadvantages
Technology to build cheap efficient solar power stations has not yet been developed
In countries such as the UK, capability to produce large amounts of solar energy is greatly reduced in the winter, when daylight is shorter and the sun is at a low angle in the sky
Need a large number of panels for small amount of energy

Wind Advantages

Capable of being developed commercially in the UK
Safe, clean (no radioactive or chemical emissions) and does not contribute to global warming or acid rain
Has a minimal effect on local ecosystems
Winds are stronger in winter when demand for electricity rises
After the initial construction electricity production is relatively cheap
Wind farms provide a source of income for farmers and may attract industry in isolated rural areas
Future wind farms are likely to be built offshore

Wind - Disadvantages

Expensive to build and maintain. Around 7000 turbines needed to produce the same amount of electricity as 1 nuclear power station. As many as 100 000 wind farms may be needed if UK is to generate 20% of its total energy from wind
Wind does not blow all the time
Wind farms spoil scenic countryside and areas
Wind farms are noisy and can interrupt radio and TV signals for people living nearby. Affect property values
Still an expensive and not very efficient way of producing electricity


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