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energy conversion basics

Energy Conversion Basics:

R. John Minor explains in Electric Utility Basics, "Electric generating plants convert potential energy in various forms to the kinetic energy of electric current. Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be converted from one form to another. The challenge is to take energy in the forms that are readily available and convert them to the forms that are most useful. Electricity is one of the most useful forms of energy because it can be readily converted to other forms safely and, for the most part, cleanly. A fossil-fuel fired, steam-generating plant such as the J.B. Sims Generating Station on Harbor Island converts the chemical energy of coal to electrical energy. Power plants are typically classified by the type of potential energy they convert. The various classifications are as follows:

  • Fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, fuel oil)
  • Nuclear fuel (uranium)
  • Hydroelectric (falling water)
  • Solar energy (heat from the sun and force from the wind)
  • Other solid fuels (solid waste, wood, crops)

Fossil fuels account for more than 75 percent of electric energy production capacity in the United States."