Coal: Energy Source Fact File!

What is coal? How does coal produce energy? And how harmful is coal to the environment?

Here’s the need-to-know stuff about the energy source, coal!


Coal is a form of rock that is usually black and hard, or black-brown.

How was it formed?

Around 300 million years ago the world was covered with tropical swamp forest. When these plants died they fell into the swampy Earth and over time were buried. Over millions of years they were changed into coal by pressure from the layers of rock above them.

Where can you find coal?

Coal can be found in many places in the world. Some of the main sources include: China, India, USA, South America, Australia, Russia, Poland, Northern England, Scotland and Wales.

How is it made into electricity?

Coal is burned to heat water and produce steam. This steam propels the blades of a turbine. This is attached to a generator, which produces electricity.

What are the advantages of using coal?

  • Coal is relatively cheap.
  • It can be found in many places around the world.
  • There are many coal reserves.

What are the disadvantages of using coal?

  • Coal is non-renewable. This means that one day we will run out of coal.
  • Burning coal produces carbon dioxide gas. This is a greenhouse gas that contributes towards climate change.
  • Burning coal pollutes the air. In fact, coal is the worst pollutant we have.
  • Much of the coal we use in the UK must be imported, adding to its harm.

Check out more energy facts here!

We’ve got a whole series about energy, electricity, and power generation! It’s called Curious Kate, and you can listen to it below!

Energy Source Fact Files!

Learn about different types of energy and how they help generate electricity!


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