INSTITUTE FOR ENERGY
Energy in Pennsylvania
An Energy Rich State
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has historically been and continues to be home to an abundant array of energy resources. Non-renewable resources include nuclear energy and the fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. Renewable resources include biomass, geothermal, hydro, solar and wind. Learn more about each in the sections below.
Biomass is a renewable material, such as wood, corn, grass or animal waste. It contains energy that can be used to produce heat, when burned, or be converted to transportation fuels, such as biodiesel or ethanol. Electricity can be produced from biomass when it is burned or gases are collected from it.
Coal is a non-renewable resource, created from plant material that has been compacted underground over millions of years. This combustible material is often used to generate electric power and also used for a variety of manufacturing activities.
Geothermal energy is heat in the ground. This renewable resource can be an efficient way to heat and cool homes and businesses, through the use of ground source heat pumps. A heat exchanger transfers heat from the ground in winter and moves it indoors. The process is reversed to provide cooling in summer.
Water is constantly moving around the earth in a process known as the water cycle. This movement of water can be used to produce electricity. At a dam along a river or lake, this energy can be harnessed by pulling water downwards past a turbine, which spins a generator in the process. It is classified as a renewable resource.
Natural gas is a non-renewable resource found underground. Produced by plants and animal material that has been compressed for millions of years, this combustible material is often used to produce electrical power. It may also be used as a heating source or as a raw material for products.
Nuclear energy is often obtained from uranium. Utility companies can use nuclear energy to generate electricity. This non-renewable resource is used to heat water to create steam. The steam turns a generator to produce electricity.
Oil is a liquid produced from the compression plant and animal material over millions of years. This non-renewable resource can be refined for use as petroleum products. End uses include transportation fuels, heating, and electric and chemical production.
Solar energy radiates to the earth from the sun. It can be used to warm buildings and water. Solar energy can also be used to generate electricity.
Wind is the movement of air. This renewable resource can be harnessed to pump water or grind grain. Today, wind energy is often used to generate electricity. Wind turbines capture the energy from the air with their blades, spinning a generator, and thus creating electricity.