Energy powers our homes, gets us up in the morning, and helps our cars work.
But what is it?
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about it. We’ll also explain the different types of energy out there.
What Is Energy?
Simply put, energy is the capacity to do work. A car moving down the street has energy. A person doing jumping jacks has energy. A red blood cell transporting oxygen from the lungs to the pinky finger has energy. If a person or object is doing something, no matter how small and minuscule that thing might be, it has some level of energy.
There are different kinds of energy that come from different sources. Each type of energy will look different depending on how it’s used.
Let’s try to break down these different types of energy into smaller groups.
Kinetic Energy Vs Potential Energy
Although there are multiple types of energy, all of them can be broken down into one of two groups. You have kinetic energy, and you have potential energy.
Kinetic energy is all about movement. Picture a football player who’s sitting on a couch. He’s not going anywhere, and he’s not doing anything. He has no kinetic energy. Now imagine that same football player running full speed towards an opposing player who’s holding a football. Now our football player is using a lot of kinetic energy.
Potential energy is all about what can happen because of a person’s position or structure. Imagine a wrecking ball that’s suspended over a pickup truck at a construction site. At the moment, there’s no kinetic energy. The wrecking ball isn’t going anywhere, but it has potential energy due to its height above the truck. If something were to happen that caused the wrecking ball to fall, the potential energy would be converted to kinetic energy and it would destroy the pickup.
Renewable Vs Nonrenewable Energy
You can get kinetic and potential energy from a variety of sources. Some of them are renewable, while others are not.
Renewable sources of energy include anything that can be easily and quickly replenished. Water moving the turbines of an electric dam is an example of a renewable electric energy source. Wind pushing the blades of a windmill is another example. Solar panels capturing sunlight is another.
Types of renewable energy include biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar.
Nonrenewable energy sources include anything that cannot be easily replenished. Nonrenewables include crude oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium. When we run out of stores of these energy sources, we won’t have any more for millions of years.
Types Of Energy
Humans have found ways to use both renewable and nonrenewable sources to produce different kinds of kinetic and potential energy. These different types of energy are used to accomplish different kinds of tasks.
Here is a list of those different types of energy and what they’re used for.
Chemical energy is a form of potential energy. You can get chemical energy from both renewable and nonrenewable sources. Batteries, biomass, petroleum, natural gas, and coal are all forms of chemical energy. Basically, think of chemical energy as the potential energy that can be released from changing from one chemical form to another.
When you think of radiant energy, think of light. Whether it’s light from the sun, a UV lamp, or elsewhere, they all use renewable, radiant energy. Solar panels take this kinetic, radiant energy and convert it into electrical energy, which we’ll talk about later.
Mechanical energy is another form of potential energy. Stretched rubber bands and springs have mechanical energy, which has to do a lot with the shape of an object and where it is. Mechanical energy can be turned into other forms of energy with both renewable and nonrenewable sources.
Thermal energy or heat is a form of kinetic energy due to microscopic motions of the material. It can come from renewable sources like geothermal energy in the ground or from sunlight heating a dark object, however it can also come from non-renewable sources like a propane stove heating a pan.
Nuclear energy is a form of potential energy that’s stored in the nucleus of an atom. Despite their small size, you can get a lot of energy out of nuclear sources.
Motion (or kinetic) energy involves anything that moves. Generally, mechanical energy converts into motion energy. Your legs convert the chemical potential energy in the calories of the food you eat into motion energy as you run.
Think back on our wrecking ball analogy. That’s an example of gravitational energy. A wrecking ball that is suspended in the air has a lot of potential, gravitational energy, but it becomes motion energy once it’s released and freefalling.
You can hear noises because energy is traveling through the air in waves. Depending on the size and frequency of a wave the sound you hear will change. This is known as sound energy. Since it deals with movement, it’s a form of kinetic energy.
Electrical energy is the last form of energy we’ll mention here. It’s also the last kind of kinetic energy we’ll mention. Electrical energy is simply electrons moving from one place to another through a wire or some other medium. This is the type of energy that powers your home.
Vivint Solar Can Help Meet Your Energy Needs
Solar panels absorb radiant energy and convert it into electrical energy, which can then power your home.
If you’re curious about getting your electrical energy from clean affordable solar panels instead of a big, expensive powerplant, Vivint Solar can help you out. We help our customers take control of their utility bills by switching them over to nice, clean solar.
Come and talk with one of our Vivint Solar reps today!