Electricity is probably the most abundantly used form of energy around the world. Arguably, any other form of energy being spent is intended to produce electricity. So much so, that even a significantly large portion of the gasoline or diesel being burnt in a car engine is used to charge up the battery and supply for other electrical appliances in the automobile.
Somehow, electricity has become the backbone of modern civilization. In fact, today more than half of the tasks that we perform use electricity. For example, manufacturing units rely on electricity for running their machines. Likewise, households depend on electricity for operating their gadgets and appliances. And most of all, electricity is necessary for lighting up spaces, be it an office or home.
Evidently, an obvious question comes up where does this electricity come from?
The Electric Generator
In the simplest terms, electricity is produced when a conductor is placed between a varying magnetic field. Usually, an armature is rotated between the polarities of a permanent magnet, which varies the field strength. And thus, produces an electric current in the armature. Two brushes are attached to the armature to draw out this produced current.
Notably, the arm also experiences resistance when being rotated in a magnetic field. The stronger the magnetic field, the more the resistance. For this reason, energy is needed to move the arm between the two poles of the magnet. A common example where another form of energy is used to produce electricity is a diesel generator. And modern generators, such as these- https://krugerpower.com.au/diesel-generators.html, are further enhanced to improve the overall efficiency of the energy being converted. It is noteworthy that these generators first convert the chemical energy into mechanical energy which is further converted into electricity. The burning of diesel causes the crank to rotate, which further moves the arm in the magnetic field, thus producing electricity.
However, for most purposes, this simple construction is insufficient. For this reason, several modifications are made to this setup, simply to make the electrical energy suitable for different applications.
The energy produced by the electrical generators keeps on alternating in a periodic way. This is the reason, the electricity thus produced is commonly referred to as Alternating Current (AC). But, for most applications, this alternating nature of the current is unsuitable and may lead to certain damages in the circuits. Therefore, the generators are usually attached with an inverter, that stabilizes the alternating current and, delivers a more uniform energy output.
Similarly, electric currents are also defined by their polarity- single-phase and three-phase. For most of the household purposes, such as powering up the refrigerator, microwave ovens, and simply lights and fans, a single-phase current is quite efficient. However, for industrial applications, where large machines are to be used, single-phase current or voltage does not produce enough power for speedy production rates. Therefore, a three-phase electrical supply is generally needed for such applications. The difference between single-phase and three-phase currents can be thought of as similar to the power from a single-cylinder and a three-cylinder engine. In simple terms, three-phased power is more efficient and can be used to do more work.
Lastly, power is one of the major characteristics that is altered in an electrical generator. Since most of the power generators are situated far away from civilization, the transmission of energy is the biggest challenge that needs to be overcome. For example, a hydroelectric power plant won’t usually be situated anywhere near the cities or towns. So, inevitably the powerplant or the generator would be attached to a transformer that increases the voltage. To put this into perspective, the electrical energy during transmission experiences a considerable decline due to natural phenomena. And simply to compensate with these energy losses, the power thus produced is increased in a way that it should be able to cover miles without losing too much energy. Moreover, the power which is increased during the transmission also needs to be reduced before it can be used. High voltages or currents are certainly not suitable for either the home appliances or industrial machines. Therefore, an additional transformer for stepping down the voltage is used at the point of consumption.
Fascinating in a way, the electrical energy undergoes several treatments before it can be put to good use. The raw electricity that comes out of any generator, be it a Megawatt powerplant or a standby diesel generator is simply too harsh on the appliances and machinery.
The Future For Energy Needs
As more and more people are choosing the greener and cleaner energy forms, electricity is definitely on the top of their list. With that being said, the energy needs are louder than it was a decade or two ago, which is definitely positive feedback for the electrical energy. Notably, the future holds even more demand for electricity. And therefore, technology would also keep on evolving to make the electricity generation better and more efficient.