Kids

Let us tell you about energy - Where is it? Where does it come from? How is it made?

If you ask a scientist what ‘energy’ means, she will say “Energy is the ability to do work”.

That is an example of a scientific definition. What she means is:

When there is energy – something can happen.
When there is no energy – nothing can happen, ever!

For example, if you want to play basketball – you need energy.
If a toaster wants to cook a slice of bread – it needs energy.

If there is no energy, none of these things can happen.

You get your energy from food. If you eat a slice of toast with marmalade (yummy!), your body changes it into energy. You can then do things.

But wait - where does the toaster get its energy?

A toaster does not get its energy from food.
It gets its energy from electricity.

Electricity is another kind of energy. You use electricity all the time. For example, your TV uses electricity to show pictures. Your toaster uses electricity to heat bread.

Can you think of other things that use electricity?

(Clue: Don't forget that electricity can also come from batteries. Do you own anything that uses batteries) 

Electricity can be made in many ways.

Most electricity in Ireland comes from gas power stations. But power is also created by other stations which burn oil, or peat or coal. 

A mixture of different forms of fuel helps ensure that power supplies are secure. 

Now more and more power is also being generated by renewable energy – this can come from the wind turning the blades of wind turbines, and in the future could come from generators powered by waves or by the tides.

Have you ever stood on a hill on a windy day? Sometimes the wind is so strong you almost fall down. The wind has a lot of energy.

Have you ever seen a big, white windmill on a hill in Ireland?

These windmills take the energy from wind and change it into electricity, using very clever machines.

The electricity then goes to your toaster.

Your toaster heats your bread.

You eat the toast.

Energy all the way!

Wind is a good way to get energy. The wind (usually) never stops, especially in Ireland! It is also clean. It does not make any pollution.

This type of energy is called 'green' or 'renewable'.

Renewable means it will never run out. The wind can blow and blow and blow - and there is always more. Plus, it is free!

But there are times or days when the wind may not be blowing – and we need to ensure that there is electricity for everyone at those times too.

This is why there are also other power stations using different fuels, and why interconnectors to other countries can be very useful.

Renewable electricity can also be made from the sun and ocean waves.

‘Non-renewable’ energy for electricity.

Energy for electricity can also come by burning oil, coal or gas.

These are not clean and add to pollution. Not only that, they are ‘non-renewable’.

These put carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere.  Many of these fuels also have to be imported.  However, they can be useful as part of the mix of ways to make electricity, because power stations using those fuels can switch on and off.

Non-renewable means they will run out someday. There is not enough coal or oil to last forever.

Which type of energy do you prefer? Renewable or non-renewable?

Ireland needs lots of energy.

Our population is growing. Because of that we are using more and more electricity. We use so much electricity that soon we might not have enough for everyone.

Because of that, we have built a link between the electricity networks of Ireland and Britain.

The link is called the 'East-West Interconnector'.

The Interconnector allows Ireland to get extra electricity from Britain when we need it. It also means we can sell electricity to people in Britain and Europe when we have too much. So it will help us in a number of ways.

The East-West Interconnector is a very big and exciting project.

A long cable has been put under the sea and under the ground between Co Meath in Ireland and Wales.

The cable carries electricity between Ireland and Britain.

Where the cable comes onto land, it is put deep underground. This means no-one can find it by accident.

Some people are worried about the Interconnector. They think it might make them sick because it carries such a lot of electricity at very high energy.

We have done a lot of work to see if this is true.

We cannot find any reason to be worried.

Some of the best scientists in the world say there is no reason to be worried.

However, it is natural to be nervous about something you don’t understand.

If you are worried, ask your teacher or someone you trust to answer your questions.

Understand a day in the life of an EirGrid and SONI System Operators at the National Control Centres in Dublin and Belfast: The Speed of Light.