Energy Generation

For your geography GCSE, you need to study how energy is generated and the effects of energy generation on people and the environment. It is also required that you understand the ways in which energy resources are managed in a sustainable way by considering how energy is used and where it is wasted. The exact requirements depend on the syllabus that you are following.

The need for energy is increasing every day due to population growth along with increased wealth, urbanisation and technological advances in emerging economies. Cities develop by consuming energy and resources from other environments. National and local governments are increasingly aware that sustainability is essential and are taking various steps to achieve this. One of the key aspects is energy generation. Avoiding energy wastage and finding new ways of obtaining the energy required are the two ways that a city, town or village can contribute to this global issue.

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Currently, energy is generated using mostly fossil fuels - diesel and petrol provides the bulk of the energy for transport. For cooking, in the UK, natural gas (from the North Sea) and electricity are the key sources of energy. The electricity flowing through the National Grid to homes and businesses is generated from coal, oil and gas with some nuclear and a small amount from sustainable sources. In Scotland, some electricity is generated sustainably through hydro-electric schemes based in the highlands where rainfall is high and population density is low.

At some point in the future, fossil fuel stocks will be exhausted which means that humans will need to find alternative sources of energy to replace them or face a world with little or no electricity. These alternatives are nuclear power plus a number of sustainable energy generation methods referred to as renewable energies.

Nuclear power generation is not sustainable, however, it is believed that it will take longer to exhaust the raw materials than fossil fuels and a small amount of fuel can generate much larger amounts of electricity than other methods. Renewable energies include wind power, solar power and wave power. Energy can also be generated from biological sources (biofuels) but this can create problems in LEDCs where land that was used to grow crops to feed local populations are used to grow cash crops for making biofuels.

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  1. In some countries, alcohol that has been fermented from sugar cane is added to petrol to make a biofuel. Which of the following is not a disadvantage of biofuels?
    They emit back to the air only the carbon dioxide that was absorbed by the crop in the first place
  2. Which of the following methods of energy generation is not considered as being sustainable?
    Provided that we have the materials available to manufacture solar cells, grow crops to produce vegetable oils and manage woodlands carefully, these are three ways that can contribute to solving future energy generation issues
  3. Which of the following is not a practical way of reducing the energy generation needs of an urban area?
    Insulating buildings reduces heat loss and therefore less energy is needed to heat them when the weather is cold, district heating schemes can be set up to burn waste in order to provide heating for local homes and other buildings. Newer vehicles are more energy efficient than older ones
  4. What is a wind farm?
    For the GCSE, you need to know the for and against points of wind farms
  5. Which of the following would be a suitable location for a wind farm?
    They need to be in a place that they will catch the wind. Placing them in a national park would be controversial as some people believe they are an eyesore, too noisy and are bad for wildlife
  6. Why is it important to find alternative ways to generate electricity?
    There are other good reasons too, for example, to make sure that we still have electricity when reserves of fossil fuels are eventually exhausted
  7. Why does Scotland have a higher percentage of electicity generated from hydro-electric schemes than other areas of the UK?
    As well as high rainfall, Scotland has highlands that have a low population density
  8. Why is the global demand for energy increasing?
    Urbanisation and the development of emerging economies increases the need for energy
  9. How is electricity generated for use in the National Grid?
    Although some of the electricity in the National Grid is produced from using nuclear fuels, to say they are being burnt is incorrect. They produce energy from nuclear reactions and not by burning
  10. Which of the following is not a way that an individual can help to reduce energy usage in an urban area?
    Some local councils turn off some or all of the street lights for a few hours each night when they are least needed in order to reduce local energy consumption

Author: Kev Woodward

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