What are the five main sources of electrical energy?

ElectronElectronics & ElectricalDigital Electronics

Sources of Energy

The electrical energy is obtained from energy available in the various forms in the nature. The main sources of energy used to generate electrical energy are −

The Sun

The Sun is the main source of energy. The heat energy radiated by the Sun is to be focused over a small area with the help of reflectors. Then, this heat energy can be used to produce steam and the steam energy can be used to drive the turbine, which in turn drives an alternator to generate electrical energy.

This method of generating electrical energy has limited applications because −

  • It requires a large area for installing a generating station for the generation of a small amount of electrical energy.

  • It cannot be used to generate electrical energy in cloudy days or at night.

  • Its installation and operating costs are high. Therefore, it is an uneconomical method of generating electrical energy.

Nevertheless, there are some locations in the world, where strong solar radiation is received regularly and the sources of fuel are lacking. In such locations, the electrical energy is obtained from the heat energy of the sun.

Nowadays, photovoltaic (PV) cells or solar cells are used to produce electrical energy direct from the sunlight. In this method, the photovoltaic cells are installed in a large geographical area, and the sunlight directly exposes these cells to produce electrical energy. The chief advantage of generation of electrical energy from the heat received from the Sun is that it is a renewable source of energy.

The Wind

The wind energy is another form of renewable source of energy. This method of generating electrical energy is used where the wind flows for a considerable length of time.

In this method of generating electrical energy, the wind energy is used to run the wind mill, which drives an electric generator. To obtain the electrical energy from a wind mill continuously, the generator is arranged to charge the batteries. These batteries supply the electrical energy when the wind stops.

The advantages of this method are low maintenance and generation costs and the wind is the renewable source of energy. Although, this method has some drawbacks such as variable output, unreliable and power generated is very small.

Water

When water is stored at a place to create the water head, then it possesses the potential energy. This potential energy of the water head can be converted into mechanical energy with the help of water turbines. The water turbine drives the alternator which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.

The advantage of this method of generation of electrical energy is that it has low production and maintenance costs.

Fuels

The main sources of energy are the fuels present in the nature such as coal (solid fuel), oils (liquid fuel) and natural gas (gaseous fuel). The chemical energy of these fuels is converted into mechanical energy with the help of a suitable prime mover such as steam turbine, internal combustion engines, etc. These prime movers drive the alternator which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Nowadays, fuels are being used as the primary source of energy for the generation of electrical energy but their reserves are diminishing day by day, i.e., they are non-renewable sources of energy.

Radioactive Materials

A large amount of heat is liberated by the fission of Uranium and other radioactive materials. This heat can be utilised to produce steam with suitable arrangements and this steam can drive the steam turbine which in turn drive the alternator to produce electrical energy.

The main drawbacks of the nuclear energy are the high cost of building a nuclear power station, problems of disposal of radioactive waste, and the lack of sufficient trained personals to handle the nuclear power plants.

Comparison of Energy Sources

The primary sources of the energy used for the generation of electrical energy are fuels, water and radioactive materials. The following table compares these three energy sources of electricity using different factors −

FactorFuelsWaterRadioactive Substances
Initial costLowHighHighest
Operating costHighLessLeast
SimplicityComplexSimplestMost Complex
ReservesExhaustiblePermanentInexhaustible
CleanlinessDirtiestCleanestClean
ReliabilityLess reliableMost reliableMore reliable
raja
Updated on 11-Feb-2022 11:17:27

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