Mechanical Systems: Electrical Generation
In the short space of a century, electrical energy has gone from a rare novelty to an absolute necessity. For lighting, heating, refrigeration, communications, or work-reducing appliances, electrical energy is ubiquitous in our homes.
Homeowners wishing to make use of electrical energy have three major sourcing options to meet their power needs.
Grid Power — Most homeowners receive their energy from public or private utility companies, whose large, centralized generating stations produce high volumes of electrical energy that are distributed through a network of transmission lines that has come to be known as “the grid.”
There are many kinds of electrical generation on the grid, including:
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Hydroelectric — The power of falling water is used to spin turbines that generate electricity.
Fossil fuel plants — Heat from the burning of fossil fuels (including coal and natural gas) is used to create steam that is used to spin turbines that generate electricity.
Nuclear plants — Heat from the fission of atoms is used to create steam that is used to spin turbines that generate electricity.
Wind turbines — The power of wind is used to spin turbines that generate electricity.
Solar thermal — The heat of the sun is concentrated and used to create steam that is used to spin turbines that generate electricity.
Photovoltaic — Photons from the sun are used to displace free electrons on a silicon wafer to generate electrical current.