Energy Resources Questions Answers

These questions are related to Type of Fuels, Solar Energy, Wind Energy, and Nuclear Energy that are covered in detail here:

How Does Nuclear Energy Work

All about Solar Energy | Solar Energy Environmental Impact

Global Wind Patterns | Environmental Impact of Wind Energy

Types of Fossil Fuels

  1. What are two products of burning fossil fuels?

Carbon dioxide and water.

  1. What are diagenesis and catagenesis?

Diagensis is the process of converting constituents to a different product through an application of heat and pressure. Catagenesis is the cracking process that results in the conversion of kerogens into hydrocarbons, including natural gas and oil.

  1. What is true about the mass of reactants and the mass of products in all chemical reactions such as combustion?

The total mass of the products is equal to the total mass of the reactants. (Chemists ignore the immeasurably tiny amount of mass converted to energy in the process.)

  1. Why is water vapor considered to be a greenhouse gas?

Water vapor absorbs certain longer wavelengths of the solar radiation striking the atmosphere and reradiates it in the thermal infrared. (Combustion produces two of the most important greenhouse gases: water vapor and carbon dioxide.)

  1. What substance has the highest binding energy per nucleon?


  1. What is deuterium and where is it found?

Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron in the nucleus. It is found in seawater.

  1. Why is a potential fusion reactor inherently safer than a fission reactor?

A malfunction will quench the nuclear reaction; it cannot experience anything comparable to a meltdown as in the case of a fission reactor.

  1. What is ITER and where will it be constructed?

ITER is multinational effort to construct the world’s largest Tokomak to demonstrate that a working fusion reactor is an achievable goal. It is being constructed in Cadarache, France.

  1. What is the inertial fusion project?

Inertial fusion refers to attempts to create fusion in pellets of D-T. The major effort is at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), which is part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in which 192 high power lasers will focus on a tiny pellet of fuel.

  1. How is the solar spectrum changed as it passes through the atmosphere?

The solar spectrum has a number of absorption regions caused by different constituents of the atmosphere that absorb and reradiate certain wavelengths. The spectrum at the surface depends on the location as well as clouds and other materials in the atmosphere.

  1. Assume a 6-foot by a 3-foot solar panel is oriented so that it has a maximum solar insolation of 1,000 W/m. What is the peak power delivered to the panel (3.048 feet = 1 meter)?

  The area of the panel is 18 ft2 = 1.94 m2. Power = (1000 W/m2) (1.94 m2) = 1.94 kW.

  1. What is the inverse square law of physics?

The inverse square law states that the flux from an isotropic point source is reduced by the square of the distance from the source to the receiver.

  1. Show that the solar constant of 1,368 W/m2 is equal to 32.8 kWh/m2 /day.

\[\left( 1368\frac{W}{{{m}^{2}}} \right)\left( 1\times {{10}^{-3}}\frac{kW}{W} \right)\left( 24\frac{hr}{day} \right)=32.8{kWh}/{{{m}^{2}}day}\;\]

 (Outside the atmosphere, this rate could occur, however note that unless the site received 24 hours of sunshine, it could not be maintained for 24 hours.)

  1. Compare the positive and negative environmental impacts of solar and wind energy.

Solar and wind energy are resources that cannot provide baseline load without backup. Solar requires a large “footprint”, however, rooftops and parking shelters can serve well. The clearing of land and added shade from solar collectors can adversely affect certain wildlife and plants. The best wind resources are often located a long way from the end user, requiring long transmission lines. Structures for wind turbines can create a hazard for small aircraft and birds and noise can be an issue in some locations. On the positive side, both solar and wind are non-polluting and do not emit carbon dioxide or other gases.

  1. What are geothermal heat pumps?

Geothermal heat pumps move energy from the ground in winter to a structure using the standard refrigeration cycle and can cool the building in summer by reversing the cycle.

  1. What is the purpose of a barrage dam?

A barrage dam traps water from incoming tides behind and uses it to generate power by releasing the water through turbines.

  1. What are two ways to obtain energy from tides?

Tidal stream generators such as SeaGen and barrage dams.

  1. Summarize the important benefits and negative impacts of large dams.

Large dams can release water to generate power as needed. The reservoirs provide recreational areas and flood protection. Negative impacts include loss of land including farmland, destruction of wild rivers and wildlife habitat, fish migration and loss of spawning grounds, silt buildup, water quality issues and loss of nutrients for land below the dam. The reservoirs can be a natural breeding ground for mosquitos and certain snails, which carry disease.

  1. What are the positive and negative environmental impacts of using ethanol as a gasoline supplement?

Ethanol is a gasoline additive that can reduce the amount of oil used, however, it is a hydrocarbon, so burning it produces carbon dioxide, however it is equivalent to the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plant during growth so the net effect is carbon neutral in the long term. Negative impacts include agricultural land taken out of production for food, water and fertilizer requirements; single crop farming requires use of increased pesticides, and there can be loss of wildlife habitat.

  1. In addition to ethanol, what are other uses for biofuels?

Biofuels include biodiesel, which supplements petroleum diesel in diesel engines and solid biofuels such as cellular walls of plants can be used to supplement coal in electrical power stations.

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