is a broad term used to describe the behavior of electrons and protons.
The flow of electrons creates the current we tap into to power everything
from radios to refrigerators.
water and oxygen are essential to your survival. Is electricity?
Its a part of life most of us just take for granted. We flip
a switch or push a button and there it is. So what would life be
like without it? To understand just how important electricity is,
explore more about the power supply chain and the different resources
we rely on to fuel the chain.
is a very flexible form of energy because there are a lot of different
resources that can be used to produce it. The different resources
range from fossil fuels to nuclear power, from solar to wind to
hydrogen and many others. The variety of resources all have benefits
and limitations associated with their use. The trick is to balance
the good with the bad in order to produce the energy we need. To
assess an individual resource, ask yourself these questions:
resource abundant? Is there enough to last for a long time.
Is the resource available? There may be a ton of the resource
that exists but its too difficult to retrieve.
Is the resource cost-effective? Some resources may be too
expensive to retrieve, or too costly to turn into electricity.
What are the environmental outcomes? What will using this
resource do to the environment, are there emissions, will mining
it ruin a region?
We rely on many different resources to produce electricity
but one basic process is relied on to produce power. At the
core of the process are generators. Generators are large magnets
surrounded by coils of wire. When the magnet spins, a magnetic field
passes along the wires, "pulling" electrons into a stream
or current. That process of producing electrical current is repeated
from hydroelectric plants, to wind farms, to coal burning plants.
All the plants use the same basic process, but they use different
energy resources to get the generator spinning like coal,
wind, or water.
are exceptions to generator-driven power production. Solar power
relies on devices called photovoltaic cells to convert light directly
into electricity. Fuel cells are relatively new devices that use
hydrogen as a fuel to produce electricity.
Transmission & Distribution
an electrical current is created, it has to get to the user. Electrical
current is distributed to individual homes and big businesses the
same way, over a transmission grid. The grid is a system of transmission
wires, substations, and transformers that make electricity accessible
and usable. Transmission wires carry high-voltage current over long-distances,
from the plants where its produced, to the points where its
used. Once the power reaches its destination its "stepped
down" through substations and transformers to lower, useable
levels. The power is then distributed over lower-voltage lines into
homes and businesses.
The current electrical distribution system relies heavily on
the transmission grid. The problem is that the grid was not designed
to carry the load its forced to carry. Increasing demand has
outpaced updating the infrastructure, leaving a system vulnerable
to outages and disruptions of service. In the future, the way electricity
is distributed is very likely to change. Some industry experts predict
a move toward "distributed generation." Instead of having
large centralized power plants with large networks of transmission
lines leading away from the generation source to the point of use,
we could see smaller networks. These smaller networks would offer
the ability to generate power to businesses and even homes.
for instance, could be placed in the basement just like a furnace
to generate electricity. For many computer-related businesses, on-site
and backup generation is essential, because any interruption in
power costs them big bucks. In the future, we may see small power
plants, called microgeneration power stations. These microgeneration
power plants would be small enough to fit into a neighborhood.
do you think?
What do you use every day that demands electricity? Does
everyone have equal access to electricity? How does population
growth around the world affect energy demand? Is increasing
the supply of electricity the only way to meet demand? What
are strategies to reduce demand?
- The US Energy
Solar Energy Industry Statistics. "Solar Electricity Prices."
Market to Market Links
found in small scale wind projects
wind researchers have often called the upper Midwest the Saudi Arabia
of wind power. If the wind potential for the entire region were
completely utilized, it is estimated the energy produced would supply
more power than the entire united states could use.
going to build the power plant where?
wants a power plant in their backyard.