Sources of Power Production

A series of solar panels on the ground, with four modern windmills behind them. In the background is a mountain range.
The San Gorgonio Pass, Palm Springs CA. Solar panels and wind turbines with the San Jacinto Mountains in the background. March 14, 2015.

Connie J. Spinardi / Contributor


Coal, oil, natural gas (or gas generated from landfills), wood fires, and hydrogen fuel cell technology are all examples of fuels, wherein the resource is consumed to release inherent energetic properties, usually being combusted to generate heat energy. Fuels may be either renewable (like wood or bio-fuel generated from products such as corn) or non-renewable (like coal or oil). Fuels generally create waste byproducts, some of which can be harmful pollutants.


The Earth generates a lot of heat while going about its normal business, in the form of subterranean steam and magma among others. The geothermal energy generated within the Earth's crust can be harnessed and transformed into other forms of energy, such as electricity.


The use of hydropower involves using the kinetic motion in water as it flows downstream, part of the normal water cycle of the Earth, to generate other forms of energy, most notably electricity. Dams use this property as a means of generating electricity. This form of hydropower is called hydroelectricity. Waterwheels were an ancient technology which also made use of this concept to generate kinetic energy to run equipment, such as a grain mill, though it was not until the creation of modern water turbines that the principle of electromagnetic induction was used to generate electricity.


The sun is the single most significant source of energy to the planet Earth, and any energy that it provides which isn't used to help plants grow or to heat the Earth is basically lost. Solar power can be used with solar voltaic power cells to generate electricity. Certain regions of the world receive more direct sunlight than others, so solar energy is not uniformly practical for all areas.


Modern windmills can transfer the kinetic energy of the air flowing through them into other forms of energy, such as electricity. There are some environmental concerns with using wind energy, because the windmills often injure birds who may be passing through the region.


Certain elements undergo radioactive decay. Harnessing this nuclear energy and transforming it into electricity is one way to generate substantial power. Nuclear power is controversial because the material used can be dangerous and resultant waste products are toxic. Accidents that take place at nuclear power plants, such as Chernobyl, are devastating to local populations and environments. Still, many nations have adopted nuclear power as a significant energy alternative.

As opposed to nuclear fission, where particles decay into smaller particles, scientists are continuing to study feasible ways of harnessing nuclear fusion for power production. 


Biomass is not really a separate type of energy, so much as a specific type of fuel. It is generated from organic waste products, such as cornhusks, sewage, and grass clippings. This material contains residual energy, which can be released by burning it in biomass power plants. Since these waste products always exist, it is considered a renewable resource.

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Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. "Sources of Power Production." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. (2020, August 26). Sources of Power Production. Retrieved from Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. "Sources of Power Production." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 31, 2023).