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Power Generation

Electricity - A Driving Force

Electricity is the force that helps us do many things. Imagine what your life would be like without it! No TV or video games, no music or bright lights!

Electricity comes to our homes, businesses, and schools--sometimes from far away. It travels on wires held by wooden or concrete poles. Where do these wires come from? How does the electricity stay on the wires until it gets to our houses?


How Power Is Generated

Electricity is made or generated by electric companies in several ways. Some companies have electric plants that use water to make electricity. These plants are said to be hydroelectric - "hydro" means "water". This is how it happens:

• Dams are built across rivers to form large lakes. People use the lakes for fishing and water sports.

• Water that has been held back behind these dams is allowed to fall against the blades of a giant fan-like turbine.


• The blades of the turbine turn because the water pushes them.

• The turbine has a shaft or metal rod. The shaft is connected to a generator that has a coil of thick wire. The generator's wire coil spins around.

• Inside the generator are big magnets. When the wire spins inside the magnets, it makes electricity flow through the thick wires.

• Electricity flows through wires into a power transformer at the power plant. The strength of the electrical current is strong and it's made even stronger for its trip over transmission lines.


Transmission Lines

• Electricity is sent over high power transmission lines on tall towers.

• Sometimes, when electricity has to travel a long way it gets a little weaker as it moves along the lines. It sometimes needs a little boost. That's where substations help. Substations are large box-like power transformers that sit in fenced-in areas.

 • Wooden or concrete power poles carry wires from substations to streets and countrysides.

• When wires reach a house or business, different wires carry the electricity to the place where its needed. Another transformer on the power pole makes the electricity just the right voltage for houses or businesses.

• A three-wire cable connects to the house through a meter box. The meter box helps keep up with how much electricity is being used.

• Wires in houses are run through walls to outlets. Outlets are where we plug in appliances. Electricity is always there waiting for us to turn it on!

Power Plants

Some plants use coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear fuel to make electricity. They burn the coal, natural gas or oil to make a hot fire. The hot fire heats water to make steam. Steam is directed to push against the blades of a turbine and the electricity-making process continues the same as in a hydroelectric power plant.

A nuclear power plant uses the power of atoms to make heat. Special types of machines cause tiny atoms to split apart (called fission) and this creates gigantic amounts of heat. This heat is used to turn water into steam. Steam is directed against the blades of a turbine and - you guessed correctly! - the process for making electricity continues as in the other types of electrical plants.


Copyright 2011