We often take electricity for granted. Everything from our computers to our home lighting use electricity, and many of us would admit we’d find it difficult to live without these things. Electricity is not so much a convenience as a necessity, yet how often do we stop to consider how electricity suppliers get the stuff to our homes in the first place?
Like many things, electricity production depends considerably on geographic factors. Electricity suppliers in many countries predominantly use fossil fuels to create power, Jämför Elpriser whilst others put a lot of emphasis on nuclear energy production. If you live in Iceland, your electricity suppliers are possibly unique in that they only use renewable energy production methods to generate electricity.
So, you’ll need to look deeper into your own country’s production methods to understand exactly how electricity suppliers keep your lights shining and computers whirring. But here’s a quick run down of the different methods they use to turn lumps of coal or gusts of wind into usable power:
Fossil Fuel Power
Burning fossil fuels remains one of the most common forms of energy production. Typically, electricity suppliers will combust coal, natural gas or fuel oil to generate heat, which is then converted into mechanical energy, which turns an electric motor to generate electricity. In 2009, 44. 9 per cent of electricity produced by electricity suppliers in the United States came from coal. 23. 4 per cent came from natural gas, whilst one per cent came from petroleum.
Nuclear power plants work on the principle of nuclear fission. In very simple terms, it works like this: radioactive materials like uranium naturally release energy very slowly, but can be made to release much more by inducing fission reactions. By keeping this uranium in a shielded core and inducing reactions, electricity suppliers can use the energy produced to heat water and use the steam to power turbines (quite a similar process, in principle, to that used by fossil fuel plants). In 2011, nuclear power accounted for ten per cent of all electricity generated by electricity suppliers the world over.
In more recent years, electricity suppliers have been increasing their research into renewable electricity sources. This is because these energy production methods don’t rely on expendable materials such as fossil fuels, and instead use ‘never ending’ sources like wind or solar energy to create electricity. The principle of harnessing wind power is very simple – wind turns a turbine, which powers an electrical generator.
Solar energy production is a little more complicated. This requires the use of photovoltaic cells, which convert the sun’s rays into usable electricity. You’ve almost certainly seen solar panels – these are essentially arrays of these photovoltaic cells. Solar energy can also be used to heat homes.
Finally, hydroelectric power works similarly to wind power, but harnesses the movement of water to generate electricity. Ten per cent of all the world’s electricity comes from renewable sources, and this figure is expected to rise as more and more countries shift their focus to ‘green’ energy production.