Flip on a switch and light fills our home, press a button and the television turns on, but how many of us actually think about how the energy that powers our life, electricity, is being generated?
Let’s take you on a journey on how electricity is generated, where it comes from and how it is transported to our homes!
What Is Electricity?
Essentially, electricity is made when electrical and magnetic forces cause electrons to move from one atom to another atom as well as positrons. It is the result of these positive and negative charges coming together that causes electricity to be generated!
It is this mechanism that produces everything from static electricity that might shock us when we rub one object to another as well as the commercial electricity that keeps our lights on.
How Is Electricity Generated?
Electricity is generated when energy is released from an energy source (this could be fossil fuels like oil or renewable energy such as wind power) that goes through a turbine.
The turbine converts the potential and kinetic energy that comes from the release of the energy into mechanical energy which then enters a generator. The generator then converts the mechanical energy, through forcing electrons through an electrical circuit, into the electricity that we know.
Electricity Can Be Generated Through Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas powers the majority of the world’s electricity generation. Combined cycle and conventional cycle thermo-electric plants are most commonly used to generate electricity. This is achieved by burning the fuels to heat a tank of water that transforms into steam, the steam is then used to drive the turbine that results in electricity being generated.
The steam is then cooled as it passes through a condenser and liquid water enters back into the tank, ready for the cycle to be repeated.
Nuclear Energy Is An Avenue Of Electricity Generation
Through nuclear fission, atoms are split to release enormous amounts of heat that boil large amounts of high-pressure water that converts into steam. The steam then passes through a turbine connected to a generator producing electricity in the process.
While controversial and disastrous during meltdowns, many countries such as Germany, China and France use nuclear energy as a power source to generate electricity.
Many countries such as Germany, China and France utilize nuclear energy as a power source to generate electricity.
Generating Electricity Through Renewable Sources
Renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind are some of the fastest-growing sources of electricity generation that is good for the environment as well.
Geothermal Energy Relies On Heat From The Earth
Similar to the mechanism of fossil fuels, geothermal energy uses heat from the earth to boil water into steam to drive turbines to generate electricity.
Geothermal power plants are usually located far away from cities and power-grids, this means electricity generated in this form could cost more to the end-consumer.
Hydropower Uses Potential Energy & Gravity
Huge bodies of water captured behind massive dams form the backbone of most hydroelectric power.
Through gravity, the water travels downwards through the dam, turning the accumulated potential energy into fast-moving kinetic energy that spins the turbines causing electricity to be generated.
Solar Power Utilizes The Power Of The Sun
Through the use of solar photovoltaic cells (PV), photos from sunlight knock away electrons from atoms, generating electricity in the process.
With PV prices falling over 59% over the last 10 years, solar power is fast becoming a global source of electricity generation in both first and third world countries.
Electricity Can Be Generated From The Wind’s Kinetic Energy
Wind energy is generated simply by placing huge rotating blades at a very high elevation that is spun by the kinetic energy of the wind. The spinning blades then turns a shaft that is connected to a generator that generates electricity.
Wind energy isn’t just isolated to huge landmasses, wind turbines can be located in the ocean through off-shore floating wind farms! This is because the ocean wind speed is faster and more consistent, allowing for a steadier stream of electricity to be generated.
From Power Plants To Our Homes – How Electricity Is Transported
Once electricity is generated, it is sent through overhead wires or underground cables from the power-plants to the substations.
Transformers in the substations then ensure that the voltage is adjusted to an acceptable level for distribution to the power grid which is then sold to households and businesses either through a national distributor or independent electricity retailers.
8 Electricity Generation Facts & Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind!
1. There is enough solar energy hitting our Earth every hour to generate enough electricity for humanity’s needs, making it the most abundant energy source on earth.
2. In 2019, the bulk of Singapore’s electricity generation, 76.8%, comes from natural gas.
3. Fossil fuels make up 62.7% of electricity generation in 2019 for the USA with renewable energy sources only contributing 17.5%.
4. China’s electricity generation through renewables (excluding hydropower) grew a whopping 21.6 times from 2008 to 2018!
5. Iceland’s electricity generation is done almost entirely from renewable sources with hydropower and geothermal energy taking top spots.
6. In 2018, the top three countries utilising nuclear energy for electricity generation were the United States, France and China.
7. China is a huge believer in generating electricity through solar power, with a PV capacity that accounts for 45% of the entire world’s installations!
8. China almost doubles the United States when it comes to electricity consumption, using more than 6.3 trillion kilowatts of energy per-hour annually!
We Believe In Carbon Neutral Electricity
At iSwitch, while we aren’t an electricity generator, we are Singapore’s largest green electricity retailer supplying carbon neutral electricity to households and businesses throughout the nation.
Learn more about our green energy initiatives here.
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