In this fossil fuels interactive game the premise is that the world’s fossil fuels supply is starting to dwindle. Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons (material that contains carbon chains bonded to hydrogen) that are found in natural gas, oil, and coal. Alternative energy is any energy source other than fossil fuel such as wind, tidal, hydro, geothermal, and solar energy. The first four use different sources to run a turbine that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy through a generator. The last, solar, uses the photovoltaic effect to create electricity from light in solar cells that can be connected in series to create solar panels.
This alternative energy game for kids focuses on different types of energy sources. Wind is the bulk movement of air created by the variable heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. A wind turbine uses three very large blades shaped like an airplane wing to capture the mechanical energy from the movement of air and convert it into rotational force. A generator then transforms the rotational force into electrical energy that we can use.
Tidal turbines use the same fundamental principles as wind turbines but instead of air currents they use water currents. Water currents are produced by several factors that include variable temperature, wind across the surface of the ocean, and the earth’s rotational movement.
Hydroelectric generators convert the kinetic energy of moving water into electrical energy, or the potential energy of a stored body of water (reservoir) when the water is released from a higher point to a lower point through the turbine. The height difference and capacity of water available are what mainly determine the magnitude of the power output that comes from a hydroelectric facility.
Geothermal energy uses thermal energy in the Earth’s crust to heat water and produce steam that then drives a turbine. Geothermal plants are usually located near fault locations between continents; temperatures are much higher here then at thicker points on a continent.