Wind power and solar power
resources that will never run out!
Doc Brown's Physics Revision
Suitable for GCSE/IGCSE Physics/Science courses or
Wind Power - turbines and generators -
Solar Power - solar panels - solar cells -
power - wind turbines generating electricity
technology of wind power
Wind turbine blades are driven by the kinetic
energy of wind movement which in turn drive a generator (electrical energy).
Energy from the wind's kinetic energy store
is mechanically transferred to the kinetic energy store of the turbine blades
and the rotor of the generator. The kinetic energy is converted to electrical
energy by the magnetic field of the generator.
Each set of turbine blades is connected to a generator to produce electricity
which can be fed into a domestic supply or, more likely, fed into the
They are sited in clusters ('wind farms') in
exposed locations on open land or out at sea (the
latter is a more expensive location to erect the turbines). Locations are
chosen after a
survey is done to see if a commercial amount of wind blows!
An offshore wind farm out from Redcar on the
north-east coast of Cleveland, England
Advantages of wind power
Wind turbine technology
isn't cheap at the moment, BUT, as more are built and designs improve, they are becoming
more commercially more viable and the energy is free and maintenance costs
Free source of energy, however
unreliable, this kinetic energy store resource will never run out.
There is no pollution, though some people
feel they spoil the view of the landscape.
Costly to build, but relatively cheap to
maintain in good running order.
There is no lasting damage to the
landscape - they can be easily removed if need be.
Disadvantages of wind power
The initial capital costs are high, BUT
the running costs are low.
It takes a great many wind turbines to generate the same amount of
electricity as a large scale power station such as those run on nuclear of
Wind power generation is not capable of dealing with the
high energy demands of peak times eg peak travel/cooking time because,
unfortunately, you cannot suddenly increase power production at all - unless
the wind suddenly increases in speed!
Some people object to what they
see as 'visual pollution' or 'noise pollution' but at one time hundreds of
windmills were a common sight in the countryside.
There are several other
problems too eg wind speed is variable and if it drops to zero, so does the
power generation. The turbines may have to be stopped if the wind speed is
Wind turbines cannot, at the moment, cope
with high electricity demands e.g. peak times in the day.
The technology of solar power
Know and understand that
'renewable' electricity can be produced
directly from the Sunís radiation.
The nuclear energy store of the Sun is
converted into several forms of energy. One form is the whole range of
Solar photocells can be used to
capture visible light and convert it directly into electrical energy.
You should know
that solar cells can be used to generate electricity and should be able to
describe the advantages and disadvantages of their use.
Solar cells (photovoltaic
cells) produce 'small scale' electricity direct from sunlight energy.
Solar cells are fabricated from materials
that respond light energy and promote the flow of electrons i.e. they
created a potential difference causing an electrical current to flow.
You can use them to power remote devices
from telephones to weather recording instruments, where it is too costly to
lay on mains electricity. Calculators and watches are easily powered by a
solar cell as are electric road signs.
However, all of these examples a very
small scale uses of solar powered electricity sources.
Note: You can also use the infrared
radiation to increase the thermal energy store of water.
Advantages of solar power
The Sun is a free energy store and non-polluting and never runs
The initial manufacture and installation
costs of fitting solar panels are high, but they are getting cheaper and the
running costs are very low.
advantage is that it easy to install on a small scale in remote areas not
connected to the mains electricity supply.
Lately, many people in developed
countries are putting solar panels on their house roofs to generate
electricity. So, in developing countries, it is a most important
and convenient way of generating electricity on a local small scale in
locations far from a national electricity supply.
In developed countries it adds to the
electricity supply (National Grid) and reduces the home owners electricity
Disadvantages of solar power
Although non-polluting in itself, energy
is used in making the solar panels, but, although the technology and
installation is expensive, manufacture is getting cheaper and becoming more
Once installed it is non-polluting and
runs off free energy with very low maintenance costs.
On average, for half the day, there is no
sunlight and the sunlight itself is of variable intensity e.g. cloudy to
bright sun and of course it cannot work at night - so variable output is a
problem, but it is being widely exploited in very sunny countries from eg
Spain to African states.
Solar power is no good for a large scale
Solar panels cannot be used to produce
electricity on the same scale as large nuclear or fossil fuelled power
Energy resources, and
transfers, work done and
electrical power supply revision notes index
Types of energy store - a comparison with examples explained,
mechanical work done and power calculations
Conservation of energy,
energy transfers, efficiency - calculations and
Sankey diagrams gcse physics
Energy resources & uses, general survey & trends, comparing sources of renewables, non-renewables
Renewable energy (1) Wind power and
solar power, advantages and disadvantages gcse physics revision
Renewable energy (2) Hydroelectric power and
advantages and disadvantages physics notes
Renewable energy (3) Wave power and tidal barrage power,
advantages and disadvantages gcse
Comparison of methods of generating electricity, 'National Grid' power supply,
mention of small scale supplies
effect, global warming, climate change,
carbon footprint from fossil fuel burning gcse physics
The Usefulness of Electricity gcse
physics electricity revision notes
IGCSE physics revision
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