AP Environmental Science : Energy Sources and Production

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Environmental Science

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Example Questions

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Example Question #11 : Energy Sources And Production

Which of the following is NOT an adverse affect of building dams to generate hydro-electric power?

Possible Answers:

Dams can contribute to flooding and resulting property damage. 

Dams often change the current and width of a watershed, altering the riparian ecosystem. 

Animals that rely on fish as sustainance may begin to decline because the dam has permanently altered fish habitat. 

The energy required to operate and maintain the dam is often equal to the energy produced by the dam. 

Many fish populations (including salmon and trout) are decimated because dams restrict access to essential habitat. 

Correct answer:

The energy required to operate and maintain the dam is often equal to the energy produced by the dam. 

Explanation:

The energy output from a hydro-electric dam is substantial enough to result in most of America's major rivers being damned. The more pressing issues that these damns cause are changes to the aquatic ecosystem and restriction of movement for migratory fish species. 

Example Question #2 : Advantages And Disadvantages Of Hydroelectric Energy

Hydroelectric energy composes a significant portion of the U.S. energy grid and is a low-emission, renewable form of energy. Which of the following would be a substantial issue with expanding hydroelectric energy production?

Possible Answers:

There is currently a federal ban on the construction or development of future hydroelectric dams to protect fish populations.

With the pressing issue of climate change and changes in precipitation, it is unclear how much energy current hydroelectric dams can provide in the future, let alone how much energy dams built in the future could provide.

Most if not all rivers capable of generating substantial hydroelectric energy have already been dammed and are working at high capacity.

The amount of energy invested in hydroelectric is about equal to the amount of energy harnessed from the process.

The reported amount of electricity generated by hydroelectric dams is actually an inflated figure derived from theoretically running at full capacity and is not realistic.

Correct answer:

Most if not all rivers capable of generating substantial hydroelectric energy have already been dammed and are working at high capacity.

Explanation:

While there are federal wetland conservation laws geared at protecting aquatic habitat, there is currently no federal ban on constructing hydroelectric dams, and the returned energy investment for hydroelectric is quite substantial. The dominant issue with expanding hydroelectric energy production is that in the U.S., we have dammed most if not all of the significant energy-producing water bodies. Further expansion of hydroelectric power will not yield as much energy as the current dams operating in the U.S.

Example Question #1 : Other Energy Sources

 

Charlie lives off-grid and gets his electricity from a 5,000 watt gasoline generator, but with the rising cost of fossil fuel, Charlie is looking to convert to solar energy. If a standard solar panel can generate 200 watts, how many panels would Charlie need to purchase if he wants to get the same energy output that he does with his gas generator?

Possible Answers:

Correct answer:

Explanation:

Wattage is a measurement of electricity being generated over time. When compared to the 5,000 watt output of a conventional generator, a single solar panel generating watts cannot generate the same rate of electrical output. As a result, we will need multiple panels to generate an equal amount of electrical output. We can use dimensional analysis to determine how many panels we would need:

This calculation tells us that Charlie will need 25 standard solar panels to generate the same amount of electricity as one gasoline generator.

Example Question #12 : Energy Sources And Production

An important renewable energy source is solar power. Solar power works by storing sunlight in batteries using which type of cells?

Possible Answers:

Eukaryotic cells

Radiation cells

Thermal cells

Photovoltaic cells

Correct answer:

Photovoltaic cells

Explanation:

The correct response is photovoltaic cells. These photovoltaic cells are the reason we can capture and use sunlight to power our homes and cars. Technological advances in photovoltaic cells have made solar energy economically viable over the past decade. Eukaryotic cells are a type of living organisms, while thermal and radiation cells are made-up terms.

Example Question #1 : Biomass

Scientists agree that this option holds the most promise for an efficient, cheap, and environmentally safe source of fuel.

Possible Answers:

Ethanol made from corn

Biodiesel made from corn

Agricultural wastes

Proton pumps

Ethanol made from cellulosic plants

Correct answer:

Ethanol made from cellulosic plants

Explanation:

Ethanol can be made from cellulosic—or woody—plants such as switchgrass, poplars, and willows. Cellulose, or plant tissue, sequesters a huge amount of carbon and contains a great deal more energy per unit than corn. Scientists believe that within the next two decades, research will have figured out how to quickly and efficiently break down plant tissue for fermentation into fuel.

Biodiesel made from corn is environmentally safe to burn; however, it requires a great deal of water and resources to grow and harvest.

Agricultural wastes can have a negative impact on air quality due to the pollutants they generate when burned, such as sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide. 

Example Question #13 : Energy Sources And Production

Which of the following is NOT a drawback of utilizing hydrogen as a fuel source?

Possible Answers:

Hydrogen has a low energy density by weight.

Hydrogen is very challenging and dangerous to transport.

Existing infrastructure for manufacturing and transporting hydrogen is minimal to nonexistent.

The input of energy to produce hydrogen is often greater than the energy of the resulting hydrogen.

Hydrogen has a low energy density by volume.

Correct answer:

Hydrogen has a low energy density by weight.

Explanation:

Hydrogen is very challenging to transport and it requires a large energy investment to produce it. While hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, it actually has a very high energy density by weight. This has to do with the fact that hydrogen, discussed in this context, is a gas.

Example Question #1 : Geothermal Energy

Which of the following is NOT correct about geothermal energy?

Possible Answers:

Geothermal energy can be harnessed in any region of the world and contribute substantially to the power grid.

Fuel consumption of geothermal plants is insignificant when compared to that of coal and natural gas plants.

While sustainable, geothermal plants do emit small quantities of carbon dioxide and some toxic gases, originally trapped in gas pockets deep below the surface.

Iceland has been able to utilize geothermal to meet over twenty-five percent of their energy demand, in large part because of the geothermal activity of the region.

Geothermal has proven cost-effective in remote communities where importing fuel is challenging and expensive.

Correct answer:

Geothermal energy can be harnessed in any region of the world and contribute substantially to the power grid.

Explanation:

Geothermal activity has proven to be a cheap, low-cost and environmentally friendly energy source for communities located in areas with high geothermal activity, particularly where the earth's crust is rather thin (e.g. Iceland); however, this method of harvesting energy is not very economically feasible or possible in areas with little near-surface geothermal activity.

Example Question #21 : Energy Production And Usage

Which of the following most accurately defines "Synfuel"?

Possible Answers:

A liquid fuel processed from a non-petroleum material such as coal or waste plastics.

Fuel synthesized in a laboratory as opposed to refined from crude oil

Synthetic fuel, derived exclusively from non-organic sources as opposed to organic sources (e.g. biodiesel, ethanol, etc.)

A derivative of waste plastics that results in a form of kerosene

A counterfeit fuel produced by illegitimate companies that can prove harmful to industry when mixed with fuel reserves

Correct answer:

A liquid fuel processed from a non-petroleum material such as coal or waste plastics.

Explanation:

Synfuel is derived from waste plastic, coal, natural gas and other non-petroleum sources. It is a liquid fuel and the process of deriving synfuel can produce gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.

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