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NEW! What are the cons of fossil fuels?
Answer: Fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) are considered nonrenewable energy sources. This means that once they are all used up, they are gone forever. This is one of the cons of fossil fuels, as during this century these fuel sources are becoming less plentiful. Another con is that burning fossil fuels contributes carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which many scientists believe is a major contributor to climate change.
NEW! What is energy?
Answer: Energy is the ability to do work. Humans eat food for the energy we need to grow, move, and perform our work. Plants use the energy of the sun to grow and bear fruits, flowers, and vegetables. Machines use energy derived from fossil fuels and renewable resources (like sun, wind, moving water, and biomass) to perform the various functions they are designed to do. So in all cases, energy allows things, both living and nonliving, to do work.
NEW! What is a way people can save nuclear energy?
Answer: Nuclear energy is used to generate electricity, so people can save nuclear energy the same way they save other forms of energy: by developing habits that use less electricity at home or school, or by using electrical devices that are energy-efficient. For specific ideas on how you can save electricity at home, check out the Home Energy Inspection on this site.
What are some ways heat is lost in the house?
Answer: There are many ways that heat can be lost in a house, such as through improperly sealed windows and doors; poorly insulated attics and basements; and gaps around baseboards or flooring edges, plumbing vents, electrical wall outlets, and switches. If you’re interested in learning how to better seal and insulate your home so that heating and cooling energy isn’t wasted, check out this link at ENERGY STAR®: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_sealing.
Why isn’t solar or wind energy available to be part of the “grid”?
Answer: Wind energy is very much a part of MidAmerican Energy Company’s offerings on the “grid,” making up approximately 30% of our generating capacity. MidAmerican Energy has been installing wind turbines since 2004, and is number one in the nation in wind-powered capacity among rate-regulated utilities. Iowa has a greater wind resource than solar resource, so the focus in Iowa has been on wind energy. MidAmerican Energy currently has 1,267 wind turbines, all in Iowa. Sister companies in other states have greater solar resources and utilize solar energy on the grid as part of their balanced energy portfolio.
Some small businesses or homeowners choose to install solar panels or wind turbines that are “off-grid” and connected to batteries. The majority of renewable energy systems are connected to the grid.
How is most of the electricity in the world generated?
Answer: Most of the electricity used in the world is generated at power plants that rely on coal. Natural gas is the second most commonly used energy source, closely followed by hydropower and nuclear power. These energy sources are used at power plants to turn turbines. The turbines turn electromagnets that are surrounded by heavy coils of copper wire. The moving magnets cause the electrons in the copper wire to move from atom to atom, generating electricity.
What do you call it when there is a circuit, but electricity is not flowing through it?
Answer: A circuit that does not allow electricity to flow through it is called an open circuit. A circuit must be a closed path for electricity to flow through it; if it is open, electricity will not flow through it. This is the principle behind a common switch, which closes the circuit to turn a light or appliance on, and opens it to stop the electricity from flowing and turn it off.
I've heard that saving water also saves energy. How is that?
Answer: It takes energy to heat water used for showers and for washing dishes and clothes. So when you use less hot water, you use less energy. It also takes energy to run water treatment plants and to pump water to homes and buildings, so saving water reduces that energy use as well.
What is a therm?
Answer: If your family uses natural gas, your monthly bill may show your natural gas usage in therms. Or, your bill may show your gas usage in CCFs, which is 100 cubic feet and roughly equivalent to one therm. A therm is a unit for measuring the amount of heat that equals 100,000 British thermal units (BTU). A BTU is the amount of energy needed to raise by one degree the temperature of a pound of liquid water at 39 degrees Fahrenheit.
How is electricity produced in power plants?
—Bonnie, Sheri, and Tracy
Answer: In power plants various energy sources, such as fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) or renewable energy sources (such as water, the sun, wind, biomass or geothermal) are used to turn turbines. The turbines turn electromagnets that are surrounded by heavy coils of copper wire. The moving magnets cause the electrons in the copper wire to move from atom to atom, generating electricity. To learn more, visit MidAmerican Energy’s coal plant, combustion-fueled power plant, and hydroelectric plant.