Renewable Energy & Energy Resources

Teacher Guide by Oliver Smith

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Renewable Energy Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Renewable Energy Include:

Engineers all around the world are creating ingenious ways to harness natural energy resources. The world is trying hard to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels as the link between the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and global warming becomes clearer.

Renewable Energy Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Vocabulary for Energy Resources

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Have your students put key vocabulary into practice. One of the things students can find really difficult is using scientific vocabulary correctly and in the appropriate context. Using a visual representation or visual examples as well as a written one can help students understand abstract concepts.

Example Energy Resources Vocabulary


Pylons are towers used in electricity transmission. They can carry high voltage power lines high above the ground so they are not a danger.


A turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy into rotational energy. They are used to hardness wind and hydroelectric power.


An energy resource that is not finite and that will never run out is called renewable. For example, wind energy or solar energy are renewable resources.


An energy resource that will run out one day, like coal or crude oil, is considered nonrenewable.


A generator is a machine that converts kinetic energy into electrical energy.

Other terms include:

  • Alternative Energy
  • Biomass
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Climate Change
  • Coal
  • Conservation of Energy
  • Cost
  • Current
  • Electricity
  • Energy Conservation
  • Fossil Fuel
  • Gas
  • Geothermal
  • Hydroelectricity
  • Hydrological
  • Natural Gas
  • Nuclear
  • Oil
  • Petroleum
  • Reliable
  • Solar
  • Tidal Power
  • Turbine
  • Wave Power
  • Wind

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of key scientific vocabulary by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose five vocabulary words and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and write it under the cell.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to give examples of the words.
  4. Save and submit your storyboard. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Energy Resources Discussion Storyboard

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Discussion storyboards are a great way to get your students talking about their ideas in Science. They allow students to critique and evaluate different viewpoints without upsetting other students. This activity can be used at the start of the topic to elicit any misconceptions students may have.

At first, show students a discussion storyboard like the one below. Ask them to look at the problem on the discussion storyboard. It shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. Students should think about whom they think is the most correct and be prepared to explain why that person is correct. Students might support their position by creating visuals, including text and images, on Storyboard That. These visuals can easily be exported as PowerPoint slides. After students have prepared their argument, have your students discuss their ideas. This discussion can be carried out in a range of different formats. Students could discuss in pairs, small groups or even in a teacher-led, whole class setting. It is important to agree on a list of discussion rules with students before they start so that everybody gets a chance to participate. Students will also be able to practice adapting their speech to a formal debating context and can demonstrate their grasp of formal English.

Here are some other ideas to use these discussion storyboards in your lessons.

  1. Students add another cell on the end of the example you’ve given them to explain whom they think is correct and why.
  2. Students create a storyboard to describe why a student is incorrect, and then "teach" the concept.
  3. Students create their own discussion storyboards to share with peers on the current topic.

Note that the template in this assignment is blank. After clicking "Copy Assignment", add your desired problem and solutions to match the needs of your students.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Read the discussion storyboard that shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. You are going to give your opinion on whom you think is correct and explain why. You will use your created storyboard to engage in discussion with your peers.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Add another cell at the end of the row.
  3. Use text and images to explain whom you think is correct and why.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Renewable Energy Island

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In this assignment students are going to put different energy resources in different places on an island. Different electricity generation methods are suited to different locations.

Students first have to decide where they are going to put each type of electricity generation method; they then have to justify why they have put it there.

Energy Resource Preferred Location
Fossil Fuels Anywhere, although there needs to be transport links to deliver the fuel, such as rivers
Nuclear Power Anywhere, although they are often put near the coast so seawater can be used for cooling
Wind Energy Windy areas such as coastal areas, open plains, and gaps in mountains
Solar Energy Anywhere with significant sun exposure; they can be put in the roofs of buildings
Tidal Energy Need to be in an area that has big tides
Wave Energy A part of the sea with lots of waves; they don’t work well in sheltered bays
Geothermal Energy Normally at tectonic plate boundaries
Biomass Energy Somewhere near a source of biofuel
Hydroelectricity A valley where a dam can be built

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

There are lots of different renewable and nonrenewable ways to generate electricity. You are going to decide where to put different types of electricity generators on an island. You should be prepared to justify why each one is put there.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Examine the landscape of the island.
  3. Use arrows and Textables to label where you would put five different electricity generation methods and explain why you decided to put it there.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Teacher Background Information on Energy Sources

The first town in the world to have a public electricity supply was Godalming in England. In 1881 a company installed a generator connected to a waterwheel. They laid cables in the gutters that were connected to streetlights. Since this time, the global consumption of electricity has rapidly grown.

The majority of the world’s electrical energy comes from nonrenewable sources, such as the burning of coal, oil, and gas, or from nuclear power stations. Although burning fossil fuels is a cheap and reliable source of generating an electric current, the carbon dioxide it produces is having a negative effect on the environment. For more information about the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment check out the greenhouse effect and global warming teacher guide. Fossil fuels are created from the remains of living things and they take millions of years to form. The world's reserves of fossil fuels are running low, as they are being used at a much faster rate than they are being created. Using alternative energy resources will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and reduce the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Energy Resources

Fossil Fuels

Nonrenewable Resource

Fossil fuel power stations burn fossil fuels to heat water. Examples of fossil fuels are coal, oil and gas. This water then turns into high pressured steam. The steam runs over a turbine making the turbine spin. The spinning turbine is connected to a generator and the generator produces an electric current.


  • Fossil fuels are cheap to mine and to convert into electrical energy.
  • Burning fossil fuels has been reliable.
  • Fossil fuels can be burned safely.

  • Fossil fuels greatly contribute to global warming, as burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  • Coal also contains impurities such as sulfur that, when burned, can form sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere can lead to acid rain.
  • Supplies of fossil fuels will run out one day.

Nuclear Power

Nonrenewable Resource

Energy is released from the nuclei of atoms using a nuclear reaction. This reaction is known as fission and involves splitting large nuclei, such as in a uranium atom, into smaller nuclei, releasing vast amounts of energy. This energy is used to heat water and turn it into steam. This steam then drives a turbine, which turns a generator and produces an electric current.


  • Power stations are generally safe.
  • Nothing is burned, so no greenhouse gases or atmospheric pollution are emitted.
  • A small amount of fuel can produce a large amount of electrical energy.

  • The waste from nuclear power stations remains radioactive and harmful to living things for thousands of years, so it needs to be disposed of carefully.
  • Nuclear power stations are safe, but if something goes wrong like a major natural disaster or a terrorist attack, they have the potential to be very dangerous.
  • Nuclear power stations have very high setup costs

Wind Energy

Renewable Resource

Harnessing wind energy involves putting turbines in places where there is a lot of wind. The movement of air causes the blades to spin, which in turn can drive a generator to produce an electric current. Wind turbines can be used individually or together in groups as wind farms. As well as using them on land, they can also be used offshore.


  • Turbines do not burn anything and do not emit any other atmospheric pollution.
  • There are no fuel costs because the "fuel" is moving air around a turbine.
  • Wind turbines are not expensive to run once set up.

  • Some people argue that the turbines can ruin an area’s natural beauty.
  • Setup costs can be high, particularly for multiple turbines.
  • The effectiveness depends on the amount of wind, so they are not always reliable.
  • Turbines can be noisy.

Solar Energy

Renewable Resource

Solar energy works using photo-voltaic cells to harness light energy from the sun and convert it into electrical energy.


  • Solar energy has no atmospheric pollution because nothing is burned.
  • Solar panels can be used in remote locations or even made to be portable.
  • There are no fuel costs associated with solar energy.

  • Solar power systems can be expensive to set up
  • Solar power is not always reliable because the effective depends on how much sunlight an area receives.

Tidal Energy

Renewable Resource

Tides are the movement of water caused by the gravitational pull of the moon. Barrages (dam or barrier) are built across the mouth of rivers, estuaries, and in bays. These barrages contain turbines which spin when the water moves. These turbines drive generators which can produce an electric current.


  • Tidal energy does not involve burning fuel, so there are no fuel costs or greenhouse gases.
  • Tides are predictable; high and low tides occur in well understood cycles.
  • Barrages have long life spans.

  • Tidal energy has very expensive setup costs.
  • Building barrages can harm marine habitats.
  • Barrages can block access to certain rivers or other waterways.

Wave Energy

Renewable Resource

Waves are caused by wind and result in water moving up and down. This kinetic energy can be harnessed and transferred into electrical energy. There are many different ways of doing this.


  • Wave energy is renewable and will never run out.
  • There are no harmful emissions associated with wave energy.

  • Wave energy is not suitable for all locations. Most inland areas cannot use wave energy.
  • Wave energy stations can have a negative effect on marine life.
  • Wave energy stations can destroy the natural beauty of coastal areas.

Geothermal Energy

Renewable Resource

Geothermal power uses thermal energy found underneath the ground. Cold water is pumped down underground and is converted into steam. This steam is then passed through tubes to a turbine which spins as the steam passes over it. The spinning turbine drives a generator and produces an electric current.


  • Geothermal energy is reliable.
  • There are no greenhouse gases emitted from the station because nothing is burned.
  • There are no fuel costs because geothermal energy uses the natural heat of the earth.

  • Could potentially release underground greenhouse gases.
  • There are high setup costs associated with geothermal energy.
  • Geothermal energy can only be used where there is volcanic activity.

Biomass Energy

Renewable Resource

Biomass is material that comes from living things, like plants and animals. Biomass, such as wood, can be burned and used to heat water into steam. The steam is used to make a turbine spin. This turbine is connected to a generator which generates electricity.


  • Biomass energy is renewable: as we burn the biomass we grow more plants to replenish the stock.
  • Biomass energy is reliable.
  • The carbon dioxide released by burning the biomass is absorbed by regrowing plants.

  • Land used for livestock or growing food may have to be used instead for growing energy crops.
  • Biomass energy requires large amounts of water.


Renewable Resource

With hydroelectricity, water is kept behind a dam in a high place. This water has gravitational potential energy and is converted into kinetic energy as the water falls. This moving water makes a turbine spin. The turbine is connected to a generator which produces an electric current.


  • With hydroelectricity, there is no burning or atmospheric pollution.
  • Water is a renewable resource.

  • Dams are very expensive to build.
  • Large areas of land need to be flooded for the reservoirs.
  • Dams can stop migrating fish.

Be sure to check out related guides in the Science section.

Essential Questions for Energy Resources

  1. What is the best way to produce electricity?
  2. Why do we need to change how we generate electricity?
  3. How is generating electricity linked to global warming?

Additional Energy Resources Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Make a poster PSA explaining why renewable energy resources are better than nonrenewable energy resources.
  2. Use a T-Chart to compare two different energy resources.
  3. Have students make a timeline describing the main stages of the development of energy engineering.

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•   (English) Renewable Energy   •   (Español) Energía Renovable   •   (Français) Énergie Renouvelable   •   (Deutsch) Erneuerbare Energie   •   (Italiana) Energia Rinnovabile   •   (Nederlands) Hernieuwbare Energie   •   (Português) Energia Renovável   •   (עברית) אנרגיה מתחדשת   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) طاقة متجددة   •   (हिन्दी) नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Возобновляемая Энергия   •   (Dansk) Vedvarende Energi   •   (Svenska) Förnybar Energi   •   (Suomi) Uusiutuva Energia   •   (Norsk) Fornybar Energi   •   (Türkçe) Yenilenebilir Enerji   •   (Polski) Energia Odnawialna   •   (Româna) Energie Regenerabila   •   (Ceština) Obnovitelná Energie   •   (Slovenský) Obnoviteľná Energia   •   (Magyar) Megújuló Energia   •   (Hrvatski) Obnovljiva Energija   •   (български) Възобновима Енергия   •   (Lietuvos) Atsinaujinanti Energija   •   (Slovenščina) Obnovljiva Energija   •   (Latvijas) Atjaunojamā Enerģija   •   (eesti) Taastuv Energia