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5.4: Lesson 5.3: Renewable Energy Resources

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Key Concepts

  • Solar energy
  • Water energy
  • Wind energy
  • Biomass energy
  • Geothermal energy

Lesson Objectives

  • Describe different renewable resources, and explain why they are renewable.
  • Describe how the sun is the source of most of Earth’s energy.
  • Describe how energy is carried from one place to another as heat and by moving objects.
  • Understand how conduction, convection, and radiation transfer energy as heat when renewable energy sources are used.
  • Understand that some renewable energy sources cost less than others and some cause less pollution than others.
  • Explain how renewable energy resources are turned into useful forms of energy.
  • Describe how the use of different renewable energy resources affects the environment.
  • Describe how a nuclear power plant produces energy.

Lesson Vocabulary

  • conduction: transfer of heat by direct contact from a higher-temperature to a lower-temperature object
  • convection: transfer of heat by the movement of molecules in currents through a fluid
  • radiation: transfer of energy through space or matter by electromagnetic waves such as light

Teaching Strategies

Introducing the Lesson

Students will be familiar with hand-held solar-powered calculators. Show students a solar calculator and ask them what powers it. (They are likely to say the sun or sunlight.) Explain that light energy enters the calculator and is changed by a special solar battery (photovoltaic cell) into electric current. Tell students they will learn more about solar and other types of renewable energy when they read this lesson.

Building Science Skills

With the “Renew-a-Bean” activity at the following URL, students will use beans to represent renewable and nonrenewable energy resources and do a simulation of how nonrenewable resources are depleted. The activity will give them a better understanding of why nonrenewable resources will eventually be depleted, how changing rates of use will affect resource depletion, the role of conservation, and the need to develop renewable resources.



In this activity, students will learn how wind propeller design affects the efficiency of windmills and how wind energy can be used to generate electricity.


Differentiated Instruction

Assign each of three pairs of students one of the terms for heat transfer (conduction, convection, and radiation), and ask them to add their term to the word wall. On an index card, they should write the term, define it, and draw a simple sketch to represent it. For example, for radiation they might draw a sketch of the sun and Earth with arrows going from the sun to Earth to represent rays of light.


Have students choose one type of renewable energy, such as solar, biomass, or geothermal energy, and write an essay on which fossil fuel this energy resource could eventually replace. They should also discuss economic, health, and environmental changes that might come about if the replacement occurs.

Science Inquiry

In Activity 8 (“Which Has More Heat?”) at the following URL, students will measure the amount of heat generated by a nonrenewable fuel (motor oil) and a renewable fuel (vegetable oil). They will learn that different types of fuel produce different amounts of heat energy.


Common Misconceptions

Discuss the common misconceptions below about renewable energy resources. Explain why each misconception is false. You can learn more at this URL: http://2ndgreenrevolution.com/2011/10/10/common-misconceptions-about-alternative-energy-sources/.

  • Renewable energy resources never produce any pollution.
  • All renewable energy resources have unlimited availability.
  • Renewable energy resources are always cheaper than nonrenewable energy resources.
  • Renewable energy resources will now completely replace nonrenewable energy resources.

Reinforce and Review

Lesson Worksheets

Copy and distribute the lesson worksheets in the CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Workbook. Ask students to complete the worksheets alone or in pairs to reinforce lesson content.

Lesson Review Questions

Have students answer the Review Questions listed at the end of the lesson in the FlexBook® student edition.

Lesson Quiz

Check students’ mastery of the lesson with Lesson 5.3 Quiz in CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School Quizzes and Tests.

Points to Consider

What areas do you think would be best for using solar energy?

What causes the high temperatures deep inside Earth that make geothermal energy possible?

Do you think your town or city could use wind or water power?

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