Apr 112009

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You can find many advanced books on electricity generation that will give you tons of details. Really, there are entire college degrees that focus on electricity generation and delivery. If you are looking for extreme details on this, please check out your local library. Read on if you are looking for the basics.

Before we answer the question of how is electricity made, we need to define what electricity is. Think of electricity as water flowing through a pipe or garden hose. The water is really electrons in the metal that makes up the wire. The hose is the wire that transports the water (electricity). There are all kinds of fancy definitions, but that is the basics.

The first step is to create electricity at a power plant. Basically, electricity is created by magnets spinning inside of a whole bunch of wires. The magnets spinning around cause electrons to move which creates electricity. What varies for each type of power plant is what causes the magnets to spin. This electricity producing machine is called a generator. The power created is measured in volts. You use 120 volts in your house, but the voltage levels on the power lines can be 300,000 to 400,000 volts or even more. Devices called transformers change the voltages by raising it at some points and lowering them at other times.

Most traditional electricity is generated using steam. Steam turbines are used to spin the magnets inside the coils of wire in the generator. The process starts with a boiler that heats water to create steam. The steam flows to the turbine causing it to spin. Picture water running over a water wheel and you have the concept. Steam flows through the pipes just like water through a hose. This spins the magnets inside the generator which creates electricity.

What changes in the boiler is the source of energy used to heat the water and make steam. Traditionally, fossil fuels like coal or oil are burned to create the heat needed to generate steam. While these resources are currently abundant, they will eventually run out and they pollute the environment. Nuclear power is a more modern method used to generate steam, but it has potentially devastating consequences if something goes wrong. They can be very efficient, but have the potential for almost unparalleled disaster. Many energy companies like ambit energy in Texas offer environmentally friendly power at competitive rates.

Today, there are a few more methods used to generate electricity. They use centuries old technology to turn the turn the magnets in the generators. First you have wind power being harnessed by large windmills. This type of power is usually used to supplement fossil fuel generated power or even power small communities, but it has not become “mainstream” as they say. You also have huge hydroelectric power plants that harness the power of moving water to generate electricity. Certain areas of the country use entirely water generated electricity. Both of these methods can be very expensive to start up, but the power plants don’t need to continue to buy fuel to burn to heat the water and make steam. They are only good in certain areas because if there is no wind or water there is no potential for generating electricity this way.

One last method of generating electricity worth mentioning is solar panels that make a solar energy home. Solar panels are mounted on a home to generate electricity for the house instead of getting it from the power lines. This is relatively new technology and still needs more development to be economically viable for most homeowners.

Once the electricity is generated, it gets delivered to your house so you can use it to power your life. The great thing is that all you have to do is pay your energy company and they take care of the rest.

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 Posted by at 6:49 am