Activity Overview: Primary energy consists of unconverted or original fuels. Secondary energy includes resources that have been converted or stored. For example, primary energy sources include petroleum, natural gas, coal, biomass, flowing water, wind, and solar radiation. Those are the fuels that can be mined, reaped, extracted, harvested, or harnessed directly. Secondary energy cannot be harnessed directly from nature; rather, secondary energy is energy that has already been converted. For example, electricity cannot be mined or harvested, though it is available in quick bursts on occasion from lightning. It is generated as a secondary form from primary fuels, like natural gas.
After researching and discussing each of the different individual energy resources, use time to discuss the difference between primary and energy resources and then to classify each of the following resources into one of two categories. Do this activity in small groups or as a whole class on the board.
You can also project the Primary Resource or Secondary Energy Interactive element from Chapter 3 of Energy 101. For the purposes of this activity and the discussion, resource and energy are used mostly interchangeably. The key difference between primary and secondary is the conversion process.
Time: 20-30 minutes
The introduction for this activity was reprinted in part from Chapter 3: Energy Literacy from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy, which provides an introduction to the difference between primary and secondary sources of energy. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.
Students should identify additional print and digital resources and evaluate them for relevance, validity, and reliability.