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The Sun is the source of energy for most of life on Earth. It derives its energy mainly from nuclear fusion in its core, converting mass to energy as protons are combined to form helium. This energy is transported to the sun's surface then released into space mainly in the form of radiant (light) energy.

In physics, energy is the quantitative property that must be transferred to an object in order to perform work on, or to heat, the object. Energy is a conserved quantity; the law of conservation of energy states that energy can be converted in form, but not created or destroyed. The SI unit of energy is the joule, which is the energy transferred to an object by the work of moving it a distance of 1 metre against a force of 1 newton.

Common forms of energy include the kinetic energy of a moving object, the potential energy stored by an object's position in a force field (gravitational, electric or magnetic), the elastic energy stored by stretching solid objects, the chemical energy released when a fuel burns, the radiant energy carried by light, and the thermal energy due to an object's temperature.

Mass and energy are closely related. Due to mass–energy equivalence, any object that has mass when stationary (called rest mass) also has an equivalent amount of energy whose form is called rest energy, and any additional energy (of any form) acquired by the object above that rest energy will increase the object's total mass just as it increases its total energy. For example, after heating an object, its increase in energy could be measured as a small increase in mass, with a sensitive enough scale.

Living organisms require energy to stay alive, such as the energy humans get from food. Human civilization requires energy to function, which it gets from energy resources such as fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, or renewable energy. The processes of Earth's climate and ecosystem are driven by the radiant energy Earth receives from the sun and the geothermal energy contained within the earth.

Selected article

Fukushima I by Digital Globe.jpg
On 11 March 2011 the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster began, following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami off the northeast coast of Japan. The tsunami disabled emergency generators required to cool the reactors. Over the following three weeks nuclear meltdowns occurred in units 1, 2 and 3; visible explosions, suspected to be caused by hydrogen gas, in units 1 and 3; a suspected explosion in unit 2, that may have damaged the primary containment vessel; and a possible uncovering of the units 1, 3 and 4 spent fuel pools. 50,000 households were evacuated after radiation leaked into the air, soil and sea. Radiation checks led to bans of some shipments of vegetables and fish.

On 5 July 2012, the Japanese National Diet appointed The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) submitted its inquiry report to the Japanese Diet. The Commission found the nuclear disaster was "manmade", that the direct causes of the accident were all foreseeable prior to 11 March 2011. The report also found that the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was incapable of withstanding the earthquake and tsunami.

The Fukushima disaster was the worst nuclear accident in 25 years. The events at units 1, 2 and 3 have been rated at Level 7 (major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures) on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

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Paldiski wind farm.jpg

Photo credit: A. Lepik
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines.

Did you know?

  • Positive lightning bolts are typically six to ten times more powerful than normal lightning — and aircraft are not designed to withstand them?
  • Dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy which permeates all of space?

Selected biography


Benjamin K. Sovacool is Director of the Danish Center for Energy Technology at AU Herning and a Professor of Social Sciences at Aarhus University in Denmark. He is also Associate Professor at Vermont Law School and Director of the Energy Security and Justice Program at their Institute for Energy and the Environment. Sovacool's research interests include energy policy, environmental issues, and science and technology policy, and his research has taken him to 50 countries. He is the author or editor of sixteen books and 250 peer reviewed academic articles. Sovacool's work has been referred to in academic publications such as Science, Nature, and Scientific American. He has written opinion editorials for the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. Sovacool is a Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Contributing Author. Read More...

In the news

25 February 2020 –
The Saudi government appoints former energy minister Khalid A. Al-Falih to head a new investment ministry replacing the General Investment Authority, and sacks the media minister, among other changes to the cabinet. (Reuters)


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