Shining a Light on Electricity

Almost every building in the United States, from single-family homes to skyscrapers, relies on electricity. It allows you to instantly have light in the evenings by flipping a switch and to take a hot shower after a long day at work. All usable kinds of electricity have the following similarities.


Electricity does not just magically appear; it needs some kind of fuel. Traditionally, fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline have been burned to power electrical plants. Recently, as the disadvantages of fossil fuels have come to light, alternate sources such as the sun and wind have grown in usage. These sources cannot be burned, so they are captured with new technology (respectively, solar panels and wind turbines).

Steam Engines

Most power plants, regardless of their fuel source, rely on steam engines to generate their electricity. The energy created by the source boils water, which turns into steam. This steam turns a turbine which powers a generator. Power plants rely on all of the deaerator parts to prevent any gases in the water from corroding the turbine and generator.


Power plants generally send most of their electricity out for private and public use. Different kinds of power lines carry the electricity away from its source. Companies can send electricity from coast to coast using lines that can sustain high voltages of electricity. Most houses and businesses need lower voltages to safely use electricity. Substations receive the high-voltage electricity and disperse it at lower voltages to local power lines. The voltage may need to be lowered yet again by a transformer before a home or business can use it.

Electricity is so easily accessible that you may forget how many steps go into its production. Each step that allows you to flip a switch and instantly receive light relies on people’s labor and years of innovations.

Shining a Light on Electricity