Understanding Power Generation Methods

Electricity generation is the process of producing electrical energy from primary sources. It is the stage prior to delivery (transmission, distribution, etc.) for utility companies in the electric power industry. Crude oil, gasoline, heating fuel, diesel, propane and other liquids, including biofuels and natural gas liquids are some of the primary sources of energy. Other important electricity generation technologies include gas turbines, hydroelectric turbines, wind turbines and photovoltaic solar energy. These technologies are used to convert various forms of energy into electricity.

An electric generator is a device that converts a form of energy into electricity. There are many different types of electricity generators, most of which are based on the discovery by scientist Michael Faraday in 1831 that moving a magnet inside a coil of wire causes (induces) an electrical current to flow through the cable. This discovery led to the design of the electromagnetic generators we use today. A basic electromagnetic generator has a series of insulated wire coils that form a stationary cylinder called a stator that surrounds an electromagnetic axis called a rotor. As the rotor rotates, an electrical current flows in each section of the wire coil, which becomes a separate electrical conductor.

The currents in the individual sections combine to form a large current, which is then passed from generators to consumers through power lines. Combustion gas turbines, which are similar to jet engines, burn gaseous or liquid fuels to produce hot gases that cause the turbine blades to rotate. Combined heat and power (CHP) plants, also known as cogenerators, use heat that is not directly converted to electricity in a steam turbine, a combustion turbine or an internal combustion engine generator for the heat of industrial processes or to heat spaces and water. Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems use a temperature difference between ocean water at different depths to power a turbine and produce electricity. Other types of electricity generators include fuel cells, Stirling engines (used in solar thermal generators with parabolic plates) and thermoelectric generators. Energy storage systems for electricity generation include hydropumped storage, compressed air storage, electrochemical batteries and flywheels. Fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), collectively referred to as electric vehicles (EVs), store electricity in batteries to power one or more electric motors. To produce electricity, a turbine generator set converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.

In the cases of natural gas, coal, nuclear fission, biomass, oil, geothermal energy and solar thermal energy, the heat that is produced is used to create steam, which moves the blades.