Where Does Electricity Come From?

Posted on August 8, 2012

Have you ever wondered where electricity comes from? You might be surprised to learn that it comes from magnets!

In the early 1800s, Michael Faraday discovered “electromagnetic induction”, which is the scientific way of saying that if he moved a magnet through a loop of wire, the wire would become electrified.

In 1882, Thomas Edison opened the first full-scale power plant in New York City. Edison’s electric generator was a bigger version of Faraday’s basic experiment; a big magnet rotates around a wire to produce an electric current.

Today’s power plants are bigger and controlled by computers, but the basic process is still the same as it was nearly 120 years ago.

There are several ways to fuel the power plants…

Coal from the earth is dug up and used to make steam, inside the generator the steam spins the turbine. The spinning turbine rotates a big magnet around a piece of wire. And just like when Faraday did it, this creates a current of electricity that is pushed out through high voltage transformers.

Besides coal we use many other ways to make electricity. Some power plants burn natural gas instead of coal to make steam. A nuclear power plant splits apart uranium to release heat energy. A wind farm uses the wind to spin the blades of the turbine. A hydro power plant uses running or falling water to spin the turbine.

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