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Physics - Electricity from the Sun, Wind and Water (AQA Syllabus A)

In GCSE Science students will spend some time looking at electrical energy. This is the fourth of six quizzes on that topic and it looks at how electricity can be generated from renewable resources, such as the Sun, the wind or water.

In conventional power stations, an energy source is used to heat water to make steam. The steam produced drives a turbine that is coupled to an electrical generator. Most of the energy sources create pollution and are non-renewable, and these are two big disadvantages.

Scientists and engineers have developed other ways of generating electricity from renewable and non-polluting energy sources. Water and wind can be used to drive turbines connected to generators and electricity can also be produced directly from the Sun's radiation. In some areas of the world, for example Iceland, volcanic activity creates hot water and steam. The steam can be piped to the surface of the earth where it can be used to drive turbines connected to generators.

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These alternatives may sound like the perfect solution to the disadvantages of conventional power stations, but they too have their own problems. They produce a lot less electricity and they don't produce electricity all of the time, so using them as part of the National Grid is not always economic. Despite this, they do have their uses, for example, solar cells producing electricity from the Sun's rays can be used to power road signs and parking meters and hydroelectricity can be used in remote areas. Hydroelectric dams, wind farms and the like are often expensive to build but, apart from regular maintenance, the electricity then costs nothing to produce.

Some people object to these alternative forms of energy because they believe that they cause visual and noise pollution and destroy wildlife habitats. This is because they are often built in areas of natural beauty like the Lake District and the Welsh mountains.

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  1. Which energy source comes from the movement of sea water flowing through turbines to generate electricity?
    At high tide the dam is closed, trapping the water behind it. At low tide it is opened and the water behind the dam can flow back to the sea through the turbines, generating electricity
  2. What is the name given to the source of energy created by the burning of gas from decaying plant or animal waste?
    Not only is this a renewable energy resource, it also gets rid of waste in a useful way
  3. In photovoltaic cells on what does the amount of electricity produced depend??
    The brighter the light and the larger the cell, the more electricity is produced
  4. Which of the following would be a good source of electrical energy for a remote place?
    These are all good ways of providing electricity for remote locations. It is always best if several methods are used together so that there will always be electricity generated
  5. Choose the answer that contains the missing words in the correct order.

    Convection _________ in the Earth's atmosphere give rise to the wind. These are created by ______ energy from the Sun warming up the surface of the Earth. Wind _________ have large blades that are connected to gears linked to a __________. The _________ energy of the wind is transferred into electrical energy.
    Wind power can be traced back to the Sun and it is for that reason it is a renewable source of energy
  6. What term is used to describe energy resources that will always be available?
    At some point in the future, fossil fuel supplies will be used up. They took millions of years to form and humans will have used them all up in a few hundred years
  7. Which of the following describes the energy changes in a pumped storage hydroelectric system?
    Water is pumped to a higher reservoir using off-peak electricity that would otherwise be unused. The water can then be released at peak times to be sent through the national grid
  8. Where does the energy for tidal power stations come from?
    The tides are created by the gravitational attraction of the Sun and Moon on the oceans of the Earth. There is a high tide once every 12 hours
  9. Which system generates electricity directly from the Sun's radiation?
    This is another name for solar cells. It is easy to confuse solar cells with solar panels which produce hot water and not electricity
  10. Geothermal energy is obtained by using steam that comes from under the ground. Where does the heat energy come from that creates the steam?
    As you go deeper into the Earth the the rocks get hotter. This heat comes from the decay of radioactive minerals deep inside the Earth

Author: Kev Woodward

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