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.