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Electricity - Methods we use to Generate Electricity
An advantage of overhead electrical lines compared to underground lines is that they are cheap to repair.

Electricity - Methods we use to Generate Electricity

As part of their work on electricity in GCSE Physics, students will look at some of the methods used to generate electricity for homes and industry. In this quiz we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels, nuclear energy and renewable sources of electricity.

Fossil fuels are still the main source of the world's energy. When they are burnt, they release pollutant gases into the atmosphere which are believed to contribute to both global warming and acid rain. The realisation that burning fossil fuels is probably harming the planet, which could ultimately harm the human race, has meant that many countries are attempting to use fewer fossil fuels. Instead they are using more renewable methods, such as the Sun, wind and water, in order to generate electricity. There are also an increasing number of electrically powered vehicles on the roads which is helping to reduce the emissions of polluting gases.

What is an advantage of burning coal?
Cheap and plentiful supplies
Produces more CO2 per unit of energy than oil or gas
Causes acid rain
Will never run out
Coal-fired power stations are flexible in meeting demand and have a quicker start-up time than nuclear plants. It is estimated that there may be over a century's worth of coal left
What is an advantage of using gas?
Risk of spillage during transport
Produce CO2 and SO2
Flexible in meeting demand and has a quick start-up time
Produce radioactive material
Gas fired power stations can be started up a lot quicker than coal, oil or nuclear stations
What is an advantage of nuclear power?
Radioactive waste produced
No CO2 or SO2 produced
Costly decommissioning process
Long start-up time
The cost of fuel for nuclear plants is relatively low. They only require small amounts of fuel in order to be able to create large amounts of energy but building nuclear power stations is extremely expensive
Which of the following fossil fuels has the shortest start-up time?
They all have the same start up time
Oil fired power stations have a shorter start up time than coal
Why is decommissioning a nuclear power plant expensive?
The radioactive material has to be fired into space
Radioactive material needs to be disposed of
It is no more costly than decommissioning any other power plant
The material left over has to be used and this takes time and requires man power to ensure the material is safely burned
This requires specialist techniques and materials to ensure the nuclear hazard does not get into the environment
What is an advantage of using water pumped storage systems?
Uses less electricity
Increases cost of electricity at peak times
Creates electricity at peak times enabling demand to be met
It creates free electricity
Using water pumped storage systems allows power companies to pump water into a high lake using electricity obtained at low demand times, ensuring all power demands can be met during peak times. Its start up time is just a few seconds
What is an advantage of overhead electrical lines compared to underground lines?
Cheaper to repair
Affected by weather
There is no advantage to using overhead lines as opposed to underground
Overhead lines produce more electricity
They are also cheaper to set up. Buried power cables do have many advantages but in the end, the decision usually comes down to balancing the costs with convenience to consumers
Which of the following materials are used in nuclear reactors?
Uranium and plutonium
The most common nuclear fuels are the isotopes of these two elements - uranium-235 and plutonium-239. Kryptonite is a fictional material from the Superman stories, it doesn't exist in real life!!
What is an advantage of renewable sources of energy?
Produce small amounts of electricity
There is an unlimited supply
High maintenance
High initial capital outlay
There are limited supplies of fossil and nuclear fuels
How do solar cells create electricity?
Absorb light energy from the sun
Use turbines which are turned by the wind
Turbine turned by water flows through pipes
Uses steam produced in the Earth's crust to drive turbines
This is known as the photovoltaic effect. Be careful not to confuse solar cells with solar panels which reduce household electricity use by producing hot water by absorbing the Sun's heat
Author:  Martin Moore

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