A-level Graphic Products/Edexcel/Unit 3 :Designing for the Future/Sustainability/Renewable and non-renewable sources of energy

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Burning fossil fuels is a great source of power, however it releases CO2 emissions that are harmful to the Earth's atmosphere; this causes more of the Sun's heat to pass through, heating up the planet. This can cause further problems such as flooding and desertification. Is there are solution?

The 'Sandals' versus the 'Nukes'[1][edit]


Sandals are people that strongly believe that we should be using renewable, Earth 'friendly' sources of power such as: wind, solar and bio-fuels. They think we should be more integrated with the natural environment.


Nukes are people that are the opposite of 'Sandals' they think that we should use technology rather than nature. They like power sources like: nuclear energy and carbon-scrubbed natural gas. They think we should be less dependent on nature.

Renewable energy sources[edit]

Energy source Process Advantages Disadvantages
Wind The wind pushes a wind turbine to generate electricity
Wind turbine
  • Non-polluting
  • Can either be large scale or small scale
  • Can be installed offshore to reduce the visual impact.
  • They don't produce that much.
  • Eye sore
  • Might not always be windy, inconsistent.
Water Running water turns a turbine that generates hydroelectric power (HEP)
Water turbine
  • No fuel needed, no fossil fuels used.
  • Should make your money back on the dam quickly
  • Dams can stop flooding on local areas.
  • High set-up costs
  • Can flood vast areas
  • Can divert rivers, this means that local communities might suffer if they fish there
  • Decay in plant life (as they are getting no water) can cause greenhouse gases
  • Less oxygen in the water.
Solar Hot water and/or electrically generated solar energy sourced from solar panels or photovoltaic cells
Photovoltaic cells
  • Lots of energy freely available from the sun.
  • Pollution free
  • Local-grid connected solar electricity can be self-sufficient
  • Not available at night time, or in certain weather conditions.
    • Backup system power supply needed.
  • Expensive maintenance as highly skill technicians needed.
  • Panels need to be kept clean, less energy will be collected from dirty panels
  • Currently more expensive than other methods
  • Energy lost when converting the solar DC current into AC current.
  • Potential eye sore.
  • Positioning and orientation is important.
Biomass & Bio-fuel Plant material are either incinerated to produced heat and electricity, or bio-gas is produced from anaerobic digestion.
  • Inexpensive
  • There are large amounts available in landfill sites.
  • bio-gas: reduced methane released, better for the environment.
  • Can cause carbon dioxide pollution
  • Expensive processing costs.

Non-renewable energy sources[edit]

Energy source Process Advantages Disadvantages
Nuclear A controlled nuclear chain reaction that creates heat that can be used to heat, water, produce steam that turns a turbine.
Nuclear power plant
  • Uses uranium which is an abundant fuel
  • Mitigates to the greenhouse effect if used to replace fossil-fuel-electricity
  • Reactors are becoming more and more safe against leaks
  • Radioactive waste takes thousands of years to decay
  • Mining uranium can cause damage to the environment
  • Potential to cause a radioactive accident
Fossil Fuels Burning hydro-carbons such as: oil coal and gas, used to produce heat and power.
Coal, a form of fossil fuel
  • Gas-fired power stations are efficient
  • Large amount of energy from a small amount of fuel cost.
  • Power stations can be built anywhere.
  • Plenty full for now
  • No processing once obtained
  • Reliable source of energy (consistent unlike most renewable sources)
  • Easy to handle coal, safe to store
  • Safer than nuclear
  • Non-renewable resource.
  • Largest source of CO2 that's contributing to global warming.
  • Can cause acid rain from the sulphuric, carbonic and nitric acids.