11 amazing and surprising facts about energy

  • How much energy does it take to Google something?
  • What does natural gas smell like before it’s processed?
  • How much energy is being used across the world at any one time?

 

Sometimes it’s easy to take our energy for granted – but there are some pretty amazing facts and stories behind the power we use every day…

 

lightening striking earth
1.  A single lightning bolt unleashes the same energy as blowing up a ton of TNT

Lightning is mother nature’s very own brand of electricity - and it’s a force to be reckoned with. Every day there are over eight million lightning strikes across the world. With the onset of global warming, that's set to rise. Each bolt superheats the air around it to about 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit - five times hotter than the sun.

aerial shot from space of the earth lit up at night
2.  An estimated 15 trillion watts of power are being used across our planet at any one time

That’s the equivalent of powering ten billion 100-watt light bulbs at the same time.
In theory, a growing population will increase this use, but it is hoped that smarter energy technologies, combined with the growth in renewable energy, will offset it.

tallest building one earth
3.  Gas is shrunk by 600 times to form a liquid before being transported

That’s like squashing the world's tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – down to the height of an average man. It makes for a much more efficient method of transport, which is essential because the UK gets gas from all over the world – shipped from as far as the Arabian Gulf (6,140 miles away).

'star path' in Cambridge

4.  The sun can now light your path at night

Cambridge is home to the world’s first glow-in-the-dark path, known as the Starpath. A spray-on coating, developed by UK company Pro-Teq, stores ultra-violet particles from the sun during the day and releases them as blue light at night. Any normal path can be converted in four hours, and it could herald the dawn of a new era in street lighting.

Lots of lit lightbulbs on a ceiling
5. Mexico once handed out 23 million free light bulbs 

This feat, achieved by the Programa Luz Sustentable in Mexico, made it into the 2012 record books. Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, received the official Guinness World Records certificate on behalf of the programme, which saw almost six million households each receive a box of four energy efficient light bulbs.

close-up shot of the sun
6.  One hour’s worth of energy from the sun could power the Earth for a year

The sun is our single greatest source of power - imagine if we could properly harness its energy. Boffins have proposed eight intriguing solutions that could make this a reality. Oh, and we have 2.8 billion years left on Earth to make the most of the sun, according to National Geographic.

Mount Everest
7.  Mount Everest is a minnow compared to the world's deepest oil well

The scale and endeavour associated with energy extraction is immense. Russia’s Sakhalin offshore well reaches depths of up to 12,700 meters. To put that into perspective, Mount Everest is 8,648 meters tall.

Cyclist marathon
8.  48 people riding bikes for 24 hours can generate enough power to run a TV for a week

A group of cyclists at Olympian City in Hong Kong, achieved this thigh-burning, saddle-chafing, world record-breaking feat in June 2014 – generating just under 30,000 watt-hours of energy. Who knows, perhaps there will come a day when every bike is wirelessly connected to the National Grid, allowing cyclists to ‘air charge’ the country...

Screen shot of google search "how much energy does this use?"
9.  Googling uses more energy than you think

The energy it takes to conduct ten searches on Google could power a 60-watt light bulb. At any one time the energy used by the search engine could power 200,000 homes. Think of that the next time you go searching for sneezing pandas and performing hamsters.

Gas Hob
10.  Gas doesn’t naturally have a smell

Natural gas is mostly made up of methane, which doesn’t have a detectable smell. Sulphur compounds have to be added to it to give it that distinctive smell. This is for safety reasons, helping you to smell a possible leak.

large pipe curving around the land
11. The UK’s gas pipes could wrap around Earth more than four times

The piping network, called the Local Transmission System, is a whopping 171,000 miles long. It’s become so efficient that we no longer need the iconic gasholders that are dotted around our cities, as the BBC reports.

 

Take a look at our visual story about the grand journey energy undertakes to reach our homes.

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