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How Electrical Generators Actually Work

Electrical Generators Making Electricity

A British gentleman named Michael Faraday, who was both a chemist and a physicist, invented the first generator during the 19th century. Faraday named his creation the “dynamo” and he was also responsible for inventing the first electric motor. In simple terms, a generator is a device that causes a magnet to move close to a wire, which action creates a steady flow of electrons.

generatorThe dynamo was created using coils of copper wire rotating between the magnetic poles of a magnet, thereby producing a steady stream of electricity. In order to produce rotation, an energy source is needed and falling water is an ideal option. The rotation could be produced by hand cranking, which isn’t practical, or by attaching the generator’s shaft to a turbine and letting some other source of energy power the turbine. The kinetic energy produced by falling water is a perfect candidate and the first power plant ever built by George Westinghouse in 1895 used kinetic energy produced by the raging waters of the Niagara Falls.

The principles of that plant’s operation are the same used today. Engineers first construct a dam across a river in order to create a reservoir.   Then they install a water intake at the bottom of the dam’s wall. This allows water to flow from the storage of the reservoir through a slim opening called a “penstock.” The turbine, which is akin to a large fan or propeller, is installed at the end of the penstock and the turbine’s shaft goes up into the generator and, when water moves across it, the turbine spins, which rotates the shaft and the copper coils inside the generator.

As those copper coils spin within the magnet, electricity is produced and power lines are connected to the generator, which allows the electrical power to be carried from the plant to homes and businesses that rely on the electricity produced by the power plant.   Westinghouse’s plant on the Niagara Falls was able to transport electricity to customers more than 200 miles away.

Today, all power plants do not rely on falling water and many use steam instead. Steam acts fluidic and, therefore, can transfer energy to a turbine and a generator.   It’s possible to create steam using nuclear reactions but, most often, steam is produced using water that is heated by burning coal.

The research and development of Michael Faraday, George Westinghouse and others has made it possible for modern civilization to access and use electricity as a normal part of our everyday lives, including portable generators that make power available in just about any situation.

New Jersey’s generator connections by Ampacity Electric… 201-406-2855

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