Non-Renewable Energy Resources

Non-renewable energy resources are resources which eventually run out. They include:

  • Coal
  • Oil
  • Natural gas
  • Nuclear energy

Coal, oil and natural gas are all examples of fossil fuels. Coal is made from the fossilised remains of dead plants. Whereas, oil and gas are made from the fossilised remains of dead sea creatures over millions of years.

These fossil fuels form over millions of years, which means that once we’ve used them all, we will not be able to replace them. This is why they are called non-renewable sources.

Power stations

We can use non-renewable resources in power stations to generate electricity by burning the fuels.

Generating electricity requires a force to turn a turbine, which in turn powers the generator that produces electricity. The electricity is then transmitted across the National Grid to households.

The diagram below shows how power stations work.

1. Fossil fuel power stations/plants burn fuel, which could be coal, oil or gas.

2. The burning fuel heats up water, turning it into steam (water vapour).

3. This steam then turns the turbine.

4. The turbine is connected to the generator, which will generate electricity.

So remember:

Burn fuel Steam Turbine Generator

The electricity generated will then be transmitted across the national grid to millions of homes.

Nuclear power plant

If it was a nuclear plant, the process would be similar. However, in this case, there’s no need to burn material like coal or gas.

1. The power station will have nuclear reactions that generate heat, which then heats up the water.

2. The heated water turns to steam.

3. The steam turns the turbine.

4. The turbine is connected to the generator, which will generate electricity.

So the process will be:

Nuclear reactions Steam Turbine Generator

Advantages of fossil fuels

  • Generating large amounts of energy using fossil fuels is cost-effective
  • It is relatively easy to locate fossil fuels
  • They have become safer over time
  • As technology improves, more fossil fuel reserves can be reached

Disadvantages of fossil fuels

  • Fossil fuels are non-renewable, making new sources increasingly difficult to access
  • When fossil fuels burn, they release carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming
  • Oil spills are harmful to the environment
  • Mining can be dangerous
  • When fossil fuels burn, they release solid particulates, which contribute to global dimming

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