Electric energy is created by the flow of electrons, often called "current," through a conductor, such as a wire. The amount of electric energy created depends on the number of electrons flowing and the speed of the flow. Energy can either be potential or kinetic. A lump of coal, for example, represents potential energy that becomes kinetic when it is burned.
Common Forms of Energy
Here are the six most common forms of energy.
- Chemical energy. This is stored, or "potential" energy. Releasing chemical energy from carbon-based fuels generally requires combustion like the burning of coal, oil, natural gas, or a biomass such as wood.
- Thermal energy. Typical sources of thermal energy include heat from underground hot springs, combustion of fossil fuels and biomass (as noted above) or industrial processes.
- Kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is movement, which occurs when water moves with tides or flows downstream, or when air moves wind turbines in the wind.
- Nuclear energy. This is the energy stored in the bonds inside of atoms and molecules. When nuclear energy is released, it can emit radioactivity and heat (thermal energy) as well.
- Solar energy. Energy radiates from the sun and the light rays can be captured with photo-voltaics and semiconductors. Mirrors can be used to concentrate the power. The sun's heat is also a thermal source.
- Rotational energy. This is the energy derived from spinning, typically produced by mechanical devices such as flywheels.