Electricity plays a huge role in modern societies. Over the years, we have become dependent on using electrical appliances and light.
We all use electricity, but where does it come from?
Electricity always has to be generated in power plants of various sizes from different energy sources, like coal, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, etc.
How is electricity generated?
To help explain how electricity is generated, we can firstly distinguish between the types of power plants:
Energy generation technology:
- Thermal – in thermal power plants, energy sources like gas or nuclear, release their stored energy to boil water. The boiling water produces high-pressure steam, which will drive a steam turbine connected to an electrical generator.
- Mechanical – mechanical power plants are very similar to thermal power plants. The difference is that they use different energy sources to drive an electrical generator. Wind farms are great examples of mechanical power plants where wind energy turns wind turbines to generate electricity.
- Other – other power plants use different power sources like photovoltaic or hydrogen. These power plants generate energy using chemical and physical reactions.
What is the U.S percentage of electricity generation by energy source?
Since renewable energy sources are relatively new technologies, most energy generated in the U.S. comes from fossil fuels burned in conventional thermal power plants. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than one-third of the nation’s electricity is generated by natural gas, while fossil fuels stand for 60% of all energy generation.
Nuclear power plants cover almost 20% of the energy production mix, and all renewable energy sources cover the remaining 20%.
Wind turbines have the largest share of energy production within renewable energies, at around 9.2%. Hydropower is about 6.3% and solar is 2.8% of the energy mix.