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How electricity is generated -Full guide for sources of electricity generation

February 26, 2018
How electricity is generated -Full guide for sources of electricity generation

How electricity is generated

Before we talk about how electricity is generated, we must illustrate what is electricity, electricity is the most widespread forms of energy we all through the world use for  lighting, heating, and cooling homes, powering television and computers and so on in all applications around us, and simply electricity is the energy produced by the flow of electric charge through a conductor.

How electricity is generated

What is electricity:

To understand how electricity is generated,  we must go to atom, why! Because electricity is just the flow of electrons from one body to another, and as we know the atom consists of electrons which are negatively charged particles, protons which are positively charged particles and neutrons which are neutrally charged or simply they don’t have any charge.

atom structure



According to those words if we have two objects A and B with 10 electrons and 10 protons in each, and due to any reason, 2 electrons flow away from the outer orbit of the object A to object B.

So, we have 8 electrons in object A and 12 protons in object B.

And according to that object, A will have a positive charge because of a deficit of electrons.

While object B will have a negative charge due to excess electrons and it’s simplest  is how electricity is generated

And as we can’t challenge physics, especially the law of conversation of energy which states that the energy neither is created nor be destroyed, we would use another kind of energy as fuel.  So, this law leads us to the history of electricity, are you ready!!.

History of electricity:

We will start from 1820 with the fundamental principles of electricity generation discovered by Michael Faraday.

He discovered a method for generating electricity from the movement of a loop of wire or a disc of copper between the poles of a magnet.

When the magnets move an electric current flows through the wire so electricity generated.

And in 1870 the production of electricity started with the coupling of the dynamo to the hydraulic turbine.

Also at this time, the mechanical production of electric power becomes a reason for the second industrial revolution after it was only produces by chemical reactions or using battery cells.

 Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla contributed in creating inventions using the energy.

And we can say that the generation of electricity at central power stations started in 1882 with Pearl Street Station.

when a steam engine driving a dynamo produced a Dc current which powered the public lighting on the street.

But today, of course, those old gas fueled street lights adapted to electric power which become used in public buildings, in businesses and also in public transport.

Nowadays there is a variety of energy sources such as:

coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydroelectric, wind generators, oil, tidal power, geothermal sources.

as well as solar energy and it would be more sources in the future who knows.

And there is the annual electricity generation in the world:

Annual electricity generation from renewable energy

Annual electricity generation

Methods of generating electricity:

And  as electricity is the process of generating electric power from a primary energy source we will need the help of any method to convert these primary sources and we restored to:

We use the electric generators to transform the kinetic energy into electricity based on Faraday’s law. And these generators use electromagnetic induction in working as a mechanical energy force the generator to rotate.

  • Electrochemistry:

It’s the transformation of chemical energy into electricity.

and the simple form of this type is the battery.

Today it’s most important in portable and mobile applications.

  • Photovoltaic effect:

It’s the transformation of light into electricity we can see in solar cells.

While the photovoltaic panels convert the sunlight directly into electrical energy.

And we can use in remote sites where there is no access to a power grid or supplement electricity for individual homes and businesses.

Sources to generate electricity:

How electricity is generated??  Now we can use many sources to generate energy; there would be renewable sources like:

solar, wind, water, tidal and biomass, which are free, environment-friendly and infinitely available sources.

Or nonrenewable sources like:

coal, oil and natural gas, which are the most used,  but limited available sources.

Let’s explain each type … you can check this article also (what is power plant and types of power plants):

Hydroelectricity is the power produces by river or ocean water.

And the power plants we use based on the gravitational effect which will illustrate in details later.

hydroelectric power

In wind system we use wind turbines to convert wind energy to electrical energy, as the wind turbines turn the wind energy into a kinetic energy and the rotation of this kinetic energy makes the induction generator rotates so, the generator converts the kinetic energy into electrical energy.

Wind Energy System


  • Solar energy system:

The solar energy system is the best for power generation because it’s the most available source, and we can get energy by:

  • A photovoltaic cell which made up of silicon as we connect many cells in series or parallel to create a solar panel.
  • And the other way by using mirrors in the sunlight and we use the produced heat to convert the water into steam, and the steam, by the way, rotates the turbines.

solar energy system


In this system, we burn coal in a boiler and use the produced heat to convert water into steam, the temperature and the pressure of this steam spins the generator to produce the electrical energy.

Coal energy system

In the nuclear system, we use uranium in the nuclear reactor to generate the heat required to turn the turbines and produce electricity.

nuclear energy system

We can produce energy by 1 Kg of uranium = by burning 4500 tonnes of coal or 2000 tonnes of oil.

Geothermal energy is the energy from within the earth.

As we know the earth is too hot from inside.

So we can use this heat to turn turbines and produce electricity.

Geothermal energy system

  • Tidal energy generation:

We can produce electricity from the tides by using the change in height of the tides or using the flow of the water,  and in both ways, we use the pressure of water to turn turbines and generate electricity.

Tidal energy generation

  • Hydrogen energy system:

Hydrogen is the most common available element on earth and we can get it from water ( H2O).

So, we can use in conventional internal combustion engines or with fuel cells where we convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy.

Can you imagine that we need 50KWh to produce 1KG of hydrogen by electrolysis.

Which means that the cost of producing electricity is clearly crucial.

hydrogen energy system

  • Wave energy system:

In this system, we depend on the motion of waves on the oceans.

So, we use the pressure of the waves to turn turbines which then uses to produce electricity.

wave energy system

  • Biomass energy system:

It’s the energy produces from organic materials like:

crops, plants, trees, wood chips and animal waste.

We Use for heat production, power production, transport fuel, and biomaterials.

But unfortunately, it produces a large amount of carbon dioxide.

biomass energy system


In conclusion, we can say that those are the most commonly used types that can help to know How electricity is generated and we will mention each type in details in our coming articles and we would find more types to study.

And here you are some countries rate of electrical generation:

Arizona Electricity Generation Sources

Electricity Generation Sources for the United States

Georgia Electricity Generation Sources

Texas Electricity Generation Sources

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