Different Forms of Energy Paper

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Date Submitted: 11/18/2012 12:12 PM

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There are many different forms of energy: mechanical energy, electrical energy, heat energy, light energy, etc. Each of these different forms of energy shares in common the ability to cause some type of change or to do work. Energy is actually defined as the ability to cause change or do work. For example, when a ray of sunshine passes through a window it causes change by heating the interior of the house. Energy "does work" inside of an ant by allowing the ant to move its legs; in a car, energy allows the engine to do work by turning the car's wheels. Almost anytime something moves or changes, energy is used.

Some forms of energy can be described as having two different states. Potential energy is energy that is associated with an object's position relative to a field of force; it can be thought of as stored energy that is not yet in use. For example, when you lift a heavy weight and hold it above the ground, the weight has potential energy because of its position relative to the force of gravity pulling it downward. If the weight were dropped and began to fall toward the ground, the potential energy that it possessed would be converted into kinetic energy, the energy of motion.

Fossil fuels include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are a finite, non-renewable resource. They remain the primary source for the production of electricity. The combustion of these fuels releases their chemical energy, which produces heat to power steam turbines. The steam turbines power rotating electric generators, which turn kinetic energy into electricity. No energy conversion process converts all the energy present in one form completely into the new form. Since the production of electricity from fossil fuels involves several energy conversion steps fossil fuel power plants inefficiently produce power (somewhere around 40%). Table 2.1 summarizes the energy content of fossil fuels and the estimate of fossil fuel reserves for the world. We must also consider the...