How Electricity Is Produced

The amazing road to your home

Everyone knows how important electricity is to our daily lives, but most of us don’t quite know how it is produced and delivered. The following explanation will give you a better understanding of how a power plant produces electricity and passes it to you and your community.

  1. Most of our electricity is generated by turbine generators in large power plants. To produce electricity, a turbine generator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. Mechanical energy is created by moving steam or gas across the blades of a turbine that can be revolving approximately 3,000 to 3,600 times per minute.

    The spinning turbine is connected to a metal rod/shaft in a generator that turns a large magnet surrounded by coils of copper wire. The spinning magnet creates a powerful magnetic field around the coils. The magnetic field lines up the electrons in the copper coils and causes them to move. The movement of these electrons through a wire is electricity.

  2. The energy that heats gas or water and creates steam comes from burning fuels, such as coal, oil or natural gas. Other turbines can be fueled by nuclear energy, falling water (for hydro generation), solar power, wind power or even burning garbage and agricultural waste products.

  3. Thick wires carry the electric current from the generator to a transformer, which increases the voltage of the current. The electricity leaves the power plant on the “grid” at 500,000 volts or higher, traveling many miles through high voltage transmission lines.

  4. When the electricity arrives where it is needed, it passes through a substation where other transformers decrease the voltage to levels that can be used by factories, shopping malls and schools etc. Distribution lines on the “grid”—mounted on poles or buried underground—carry electricity from the substation to where it is used.

  5. Smaller transformers mounted on poles or concrete pads on the ground in your neighborhood, further reduce the electrical voltage to 110 – 220 volts in order to be used safely in your house.

  6. Electricity typically enters your house through a meter that measures the amount of electricity you use. It passes through an electrical control panel which controls its distribution through wires in the walls, and finally to lights, wall switches and outlets. When you "switch on" or "plug in" an appliance, you complete the circuit from the power plant, and electricity operates the lights and appliances in your home.

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