Like most Americans, you rely on electricity daily, but probably don’t give much thought as to where it comes from, or how it magically appears in your home to power your various electronic devices. However it pays to take a look, as between current global environmental concerns and the changing geopolitical climate, you don’t want to end up ‘in the dark.’
Going with the Flow: How Electricity Powers the World
Simply put, electricity involves the flow of electrons, which are defined by current. There are two main kinds of current: DC or direct current – a ‘flow’ of energy like you get from a battery; and AC, or alternating current (like from your wall outlets) – which reverses the direction of electrons, allowing current flow to turn on and off. But that current must be sourced or created. Luckily, there are many different ways, ranging from the simplest static electrical charge produced by merely rubbing materials together, to the infinitely complex process of harnessing nuclear energy as a power source.
Infinite Potential: Common Energy Sourcing Options
Nearly all forms of sourcing energy involve turbine use. For fossil fuel generated power, this involves combustion for the production of steam and gases to rotate turbine shafts, which, when connected to a generator, convert this mechanical energy into electrical current. In renewable options, however, the source itself typically fuels turbine movement.
- Natural Gas
Natural gas combustion alone, or as part of a furnace/boiler system, propels turbines to create energy.
Most power plants use coal-fired steam turbines to generate power, though a few convert coal to a gas before using it in turbines.
Petroleum can also be burned to produce combustion gases or steam to power turbines.
- Nuclear Power
With nuclear power, nuclear fission produces the energy-generating steam necessary to spin turbines and generate electricity.
Hydropower from dams and other setups power turbines via flowing water.
Like giant pinwheels, turbines capture energy from the wind for conversion into electricity.
Derived from plant and animal waste, materials are burned directly and used as other fuels to power turbines or internal combustion generators.
Energy from the sun is captured in photovoltaic solar cells, heating fluids to produce steam and drive turbines.
Heat from within the earth is harnessed to for heating water into steam to power turbines.
Energy Source Comparison: What’s America's Biggest Energy Source?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, most of the electricity in the U.S. is created through the use of fossil fuels.
Looking Into the Future
The Institute for Energy Research (IER) points to fossil fuels leading the way as the United States’ top energy source through 2040, supplying 80 percent of America’s energy needs. However in a study by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), it has been noted the U.S. could generate the majority of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. And this can be done with feasibly and affordably with currently available technologies (wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and biopower) - provided the nation take the steps necessary to reach this goal.
Are you doing all you can to ensure the efficient use of electricity in your home or business, to protect against the rapid depletion of America’s limited fossil fuel resources? Save the planet (and your budget). Schedule your home or commercial energy audit with Mr. Electric today.
Want more information? Visit GetNeighborly.com. Mr. Electric is part of a community of home service brands that can help you with needs from plumbing to painting, from appliance repair to home cleaning. For example, another great energy saving idea is an appliance maintenance audit. Reach out to Mr. Appliance to schedule a check-up for any of your home's appliances, such as washing machines, clothes dryers, ovens and more. You could help reduce your energy bill, and possibly extend the life of one of your home's valuable A Team members!