Energy - An Overview

in #environment2 years ago

Thrice did the Titan Prometheus defy the King of Mt. Olympus. And for that, Zeus, king of the Gods of Mount Olympus, punished him severely.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay



If the legends are correct, then we have to both thank and curse the Titan. In his gift of fire, Prometheus granted us a tool to sustain life and death. The gift of fire is a power that became our source of heat and heartache.

Over time, humanity learned to harness the powers of fire, wind, and water. Each element provided a source of energy channeled for various uses. We define that in basic terms. Energy is the power we take from something to produce useful work through something else. The power can come from virtually anywhere, namely: a wound spring, the bonds of an atom, fossils, sunlight, wind, or even water. In time In time, humanity can also harness the power of nothing (Standford). For now, however, we will focus upon what already exists.


Power - Sonal Patel

Our next blog series intends to review familiar sources of energy production on this Earth. We all have an idea about them. They include coal, nuclear, solar, and water, as well as many others. Each form of energy production comes with its advantages and disadvantages. The reasoning for their uses is more practical than you would believe. For now, let's discuss some general information about them.

Power Production Similarities

The main difference with each form of power is in the driving force of electrical power generation. We take the energy that comes in, convert or refine it, and produce electricity that facilities then distribute to a consumer. The process isn't clean, either. Every form of production produces waste.

Coal Power

WikiMedia Commons

A brief history

Coal, a fossil fuel, is the result of heat and pressure upon dead plants throughout millions of years There is evidence of coal use by Cavemen, as well as Romans alike. However, it wasn't until the late 1800s that society began to use coal for electricity ( Today, the use of this fuel accounts for 38% of the world's electrical generation (World Coal).

How it works

Coal power plants first pulverize the coal into a fine powder for greater thermal efficiency. The powdery coal then moves into the combustion chamber of a boiler to generate high temperatures. The high temperatures and pressures allow the conversion of water within a Steam Generator into steam (World Coal).

The steam produced is dried and transported into the blades of a turbine generator. The application of steam onto the turbine blades causes it to rotate at high speeds. A generator positioned at the end of the turbine contains wired coils that generate electricity as the turbine rotates. A transmission system picks up the voltage and transmits it to its end-users (World Coal).

Number of Coal Plants

Approximately 78 countries generate electricity through coal (Carbon). These countries operate almost 12,700 coal power plants (Global Coal). Each power plant operates independently of the other. Also, each one generates waste that is hopefully regulated to minimize the impact on the environment.

Nuclear Power

A brief history

Argonne National Laboratory

We can say that the science of atomic radiation began in the late 1890s (WNA). We have focused our knowledge since then to harness the power of the atom with greater efficiency. Since 1945, the U.S. Navy changed how the world saw applications in atomic energy through their development of nuclear propulsion and electricity generation applications (WNA).

While I can't say the U.S. Navy led the change in how the world saw nuclear, I can imagine that they did influence commercial atomic power development across the globe.

How it works

Pressurized Water Reactor

Nuclear power plants initiate and maintain fission within a reactor. The controlled fission reaction heats water to specific temperature ranges through the use of control rods and other digital and mechanical systems. Similar to coal power, the heated water then passes through a Steam Generator that uses the heat transfer to create steam. The steam is dried and transported along to a turbine generator for the production of electrical power. A transmission system transfers the generated electricity from the turbine generator, ultimately to the consumer.

Boiling Water Reactor

The majority of nuclear power facilities on this planet produce energy through two types of reactors, namely: Pressurized and Boiling Water Reactors(World Nuclear). The fundamental difference between these two is where steam production occurs. Pressurized water reactors operate in the manner we just discussed. In boiling water reactors, however, the steam is produced within the reactor.
(IMAGE - Boiling Water Reactor)

Number of Nuclear Plants

Building upon the Navy's successes after 1945, commercial power plant development began throughout the U.S. In 2019, approximately 98 nuclear power plants were operating within this country. Across the world, however, there are about 225 operating nuclear reactors. The need for carbon-free atomic power will only increase over time (World Nuclear).

Solar Power

Pavagada Solar Park

A brief history

Our society can attribute credit to Alexandre Edmund Becquerel with the first observation of the Photovoltaic Effect (PV) in 1839 (SEIA). I'm not sure this is true, but it's a popular observation, at least. Research into solar power continued since that time.

Energy crises and environmental movements accelerated the development of this technology. Similar to any new technology, the cost of solar power was bearable only for the wealthy. Nowadays, higher efficiencies in technology, along with greater demand, reduced the cost of use to more manageable levels. The price will only lower with research and time. Countries trying to reduce their carbon footprint put solar power at the forefront of their energy portfolios.

How it works

Multiple technologies exist for the production of electricity through solar power. For now, we'll discuss solar panels and concentrators.

Solar Panels

Tengger Desert Solar Park

The PV effect allows for the generation of electric current within a PV cell after exposure to sunlight (Calgary). The use of semiconductors and solar panels allows for the direction of the electricity generated to a useful source. Solar panels installed on homes, for instance, will direct the power for valuable applications like heating and lighting. We further enhance that use by utilizing batteries for storage of that power.

Solar Concentrators

Concentrator Solar Farm

Concentrating solar power farms operate similarly to coal and nuclear power plants, albeit without the coal, nuclear radiation, or radioactive waste (SEIA). The mirrors at this plant concentrate thermal energy used to convert water into steam that drives a turbine generator. The rotation of the turbine generator creates electricity transmitted to consumers.

Number of Solar Plants

In February 2019, there were 2,500 PV generating facilities within the United States (EIA). They are small scale and create anywhere between 1 - 5 megawatts. Larger projects are underway.

There are, however, much more extensive facilities in operation. One example of such a facility is within the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the UAE (Power Technology). The project is in multiple phases, with a projected output of 5,000 MW by 2030.

Hydroelectric Plants

Three Gorges Dam

A brief history

Humanity utilized the power in water for centuries. Greeks used it to grind seeds (Energy Informative). The industrial revolution utilized the power in water for their textile industries (Industrial Revolution). Water, however, found its genuine potential in power generation following the 1831 presentation of the first electric generator by Michael Faraday. Approximately 50 years later, Appleton, Wisconsin, saw the birth of the world's first hydroelectric power plant.

How it works

The power facility (i.e., dam, tank, or river, etc.) uses the flow and pressure of water to direct a stream against the blades of a turbine, causing it to spin ( The spinning turbine rotates a generator that produces electrical power. A transmission system transfers the electricity from the generator to the consumer.

Number of Hydro Plants

Around 62,000 hydroelectric power plants are operating across the world (EIA). The capacity of the power plant, like any other power plane, varies depending upon the need for power and the available resources. Some of these power plants can be massive.

Environmental Impacts

We transform the Earth, and our society, as we use and transform energy. During our earlier years, we chose to use that energy with no regard for the consequences of our actions. The skies would darken with coal ash, rivers would burn, and communities would burn for decades. The results of these efforts forced our society to regulate the industrial processes we develop. We were killing our people, and our people cried out for change.

Slowly, but surely, the conditions adversely affecting us slowly started clearing. We barely staved off the disaster we were creating. Our use of energy eventually made us believe that we could never do without it.

And society can't do without it. Imagine how the effect of sustained power losses impacts the community. Nothing would get done. Countries would become paralyzed, especially with our Internet of Everything.

In Closing

Thank you, fellow Steemians, for joining me on this next series of Energy. We will return to the Environmental Impact series to discuss how each of these forms of power production impacts our environment in detail. Until next time!

Related Posts


This energy series is going to keep you busy for a loooong time!! And very much needed. Living off-grid is a big focus for many in the @ecotrain and #ecovillage movements. Understanding the destruction is pivotal to the personal shifts we need to make.

Hoping you can publish LOTS or blog articles empowering people personally. I KNOW it's a passion of @eco-alex and something we'd love to see a lot more about on @ecotrain from any-all angles.

Leading the curation trail for both @ecotrain & @eco-alex.
Together We’re Making This World A Better Place.

Click Here To Join the manually curated trail "@artemislives" to support quality eco-green content.



Thank you for responding and for your support! I appreciate it. The series will keep me busy, but it's something I'm familiar with given my career and past education. I'm fascinated by how we use electricity to fuel progress in society. I feel it's something we all take for granted until it's problematic or no longer available.

I remember rolling blackouts or typical power outages when I was younger, and I didn't feel it as much of an impact. Now that I'm a father and have to provide for my family, it's a much bigger deal.

I'll be revisiting the topic of fires within Australia and California in my next post, but after that, I continue with the Energy series. I intended the Fire series to be a two-part post, but I'm still putting all this blogging stuff together into a coherent process.

The Energy series builds upon the overview and focuses on currently used, and not theoretical, forms of power generation. It will cover the advantages, disadvantages, and trackers that will hopefully point out where we can locate these power plants on earth. Each subsequent blog post will include the forms of power I mentioned in the overview and then expand to those less used.

Have a great weekend!


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Now this looks like it will be a great piece of science info to be shared in a series. Thanks for the intro piece and overview, will look forward to seeing the series ahead!


Thank you for the response. I'm very familiar with this topic. No matter how green the technology, there are always advantages and disadvantages to different forms of power production.

The current post is an overview, but the subsequent posts under this series will be more detailed.

Awesome, I think it will be very interesting. I'm a bit of a science head and studied materials science at Uni (now work in the scientific analysis industry) so there's a common interest.


What I've learned so far about technology and humanity is that it can bring us together as one people. What society has done with power production and communications is terrific. Slowly, but surely, we are creating the potential to live harmoniously. The terrifying part is that slowly, but surely, we are creating a path towards self-destruction.

Fortunately for power production, I only see a positive outlook in the long-run. The world is learning that it must take care of our planet as it cares for our consumers' needs. I'm as happy as the next guy to power up my computer and write down my thoughts. I don't want to stimy the environment in my pursuits.


The first picture attracted my attention. I love lightpainting. You,too? Find more here: @lightpaintershub


Thank you for responding. I've never heard of light painting before your post. Thanks for providing the link. Wow, there is some beautiful imagery there.

I picked the image because it appeared other-worldly. I imagined it at the "fire" Prometheus took from the heavens to grant to humanity. It seems like something too dangerous to wield by humans at first glance: Something beautiful to behold, but hazardous to touch. The analogy is akin to our use of technology today.



Then the photo with the steelwhool spin was well choosen, because its a very dangerous kind of photography. You can easy hurt your self.

join us @lightpaintershub

It's undoubtedly beautiful. I would know at all how someone made it, but it does look dangerous.

Thanks info.

fixing trafalgar curation

Thanks for the response! I appreciated it and was able to find the post describing it. I've learned a lot, and it was indeed a long read. Steemit is vast, and I'm learning as I go.