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Reported by: Jemalin B.

Sacdalan
How electricity is
generated

Over the centuries we have harnessed the energy of the
wind (for sailing ships), and falling water (flour mills) and
used wood to heat water to generate steam (for trains
and cotton mills).
Power in the form of electricity today is mostly sourced
from the chemical energy of fuel - whether it's natural
gas, coal or oil. This chemical energy is first converted
to heat energy, then to mechanical energy and finally to
electrical energy. The intermediate steps are carried out
by means of boilers, turbines and generators.
There are several different forms of electrical generation
- hydroelectric, nuclear, wind and solar. Each has
unique aspects, but they all operate on the similar
principle of converting some form of fuel into heat
energy, then mechanical energy and finally electrical
energy.

The Boiler
Fuel is burned in a boiler and the heat is used to
produce steam under pressure. The steam is
collected in a cylinder at the top of the boiler.
From the boiler steam is led through heat-
insulated pipes to the steam turbine.

The Turbine
A turbine is a machine powered by gas or steam.
A steam turbine contains a horizontal shaft fitted
with a number of wheels, each carrying many
blades. The steam passes through these blades,
making the shaft rotate at high speed, just as the
wind turns the blades of a windmill. When the
steam has given up its energy to the turbine
shaft, it is condensed back into water in a
'condenser' and returned to the boiler to repeat
the cycle. A gas turbine works much the same
way, except hot air replaces the steam.

The Generator
The turbine shaft turns the
electromagnet of the generator,
changing the mechanical energy
from the turbine into electrical energy.
This electric energy takes the form of
Alternating Current (AC) and Direct
Current (DC).

Alternating Current
A powerful electromagnet (rotor) is mounted
on a shaft which rotates inside a cylindrical
iron shell (stator) containing slots through
which the conductors are wound. The current
flows momentarily in one direction through the
conductors and then reverses. This is called
'Alternating Current' (AC).
The AC used throughout South Australia flows
alternately in each direction 50 times each
second. In technical terms this frequency of
change of direction is measured in hertz (Hz).

Direct Current
A current which continuously flows in one direction is
called a 'Direct Current' (DC).
Hydro Electric Power
The energy produced by the flow of water can be
transformed into electricity by a hydroelectric power
scheme. The Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme
is the best known Australian example of hydroelectric
generation.
Dams are used to create big reservoirs of water,
either by raising the levels of natural lakes or rivers.

Tunnels, canals, channels and
pipelines convey the water from the
reservoir to the turbines in the power
stations. The power stations are
situated where they can take
advantage of the greatest fall of water,
such as at the bottom of a deep and
steep-sided valley or gorge.
The water flows through a turbine,
which drives an electric generator.

Nuclear Power
Nuclear power unlocks the enormous
energy contained in every atom. The fuel
used in nuclear reactors is an element
called Uranium. The Uranium produces
huge quantities of heat in a process called
nuclear fission, which takes place in the
nuclear reactor. This heat travels through a
heat exchanger, which serves as a boiler
for rapidly heating up water and creating
steam. This steam is used to power an
ordinary steam turbine and generator to
produce electrical energy.

Wind Power
Wind power has been grinding grain
and lifting water for centuries. Now it
is also used to generate electricity by
using large wind-powered turbines. A
typical 300kw turbine has a large (30
metre diameter), three-bladed rotor
rotating. Turbines generally
are grouped together in wind farms.

Solar Energy
While energy from the sun is free, the cost of
devices to convert it has been high, and the
conversion from light to electricity has been
relatively inefficient, though it is improving. Some
methods include:
Solar Cells (sometimes called photovoltaic cells),
which are semi-conductors activated by light.
Their power is determined by the intensity of light
falling onto the cell. Many cells are joined
together to provide sufficient electricity to do
useful work. Photovoltaic panels are seen on
remote telephones, the roofs of solar cars and on
the roofs of houses.

Heliostats or sun-tracking mirrors
produce high temperatures that can
be used to power traditional steam
turbine generators.
Solar Ponds of salt water that use
special low-temperature generators.
Solar Collectors that capture heat from
the sun and use it to directly heat
water for homes.