Q&A: How do electric generators at power plants work?

electric generators

How do electric generators at power plants work?
Generators using steam turbines and fossil fuel, coal, oil, nuclear fuel, wind, hydro fuel, solar fuel, and tidal movement.

Best answer:

Answer by scotsman
They all work the same way. They use a system of turbines, which turn, either by the weight of falling water (hydro power) or through steam generated by burning fossil fuels, to move a conductive wire coil through a magnetic field. That makes electricity. Solar fuel cells work differently and generate electricity from a reaction caused by light falling on them - no moving parts.

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4 Responses to Q&A: How do electric generators at power plants work?

  1. millermw7

    Using a turbine, an engine spins a coil around a conductor and it essentially generates static electricity. It comes at the price of using diesel to run the engine though.

  2. riddsridds

    Well if you are taking about steam turbines, lets take a hydro power plant at Niagara Falls for example. The force of the water from the falls is used to turn electric turbines which makes electricity.

    Nuclear power plants work buy splitting an atom which causes a chain reaction creating extreme heat and pressure, they use the heat and steam again in turbines.

    As for fossil fuels, they are burned and again coal is burned and the steam powers turbines.

    Solar grids collect light which is converted into energy.

  3. nb2006

    They convert kinetic energy into electrical energy. The principle that makes this work is faraday’s law of induction which states that a changing magnetic field through a loop (of wire for instance) will cause current through that conductor. That is why generators have loops of wire and magnets. A changing magnetic field can be created by moving the magnets or moving the wires or both at the same time. The mechanical motion (kinetic energy) could by provided by water flowing (dams), or steam flow (nuclear reactions, coal, and oil are the fuel to heat the water to create the steam), or wind flow (windmills). Solar power however does not come from a so called generator because the mechanism by which they work is not faraday’s law of induction. Solar cells are usually semiconductors with the properties of producing electricity when it is exposed to light.

  4. Y-

    An interesting (and low cost) demo of this can be done with a small electric motor out of a toy (or can buy at Radio Shack) and a small 1.2 volt flashlite bulb.
    Attach the bulb to the wires on the motor. Put a fan/propeller cut from cardboard (or my favorite was the prop from a balsa rubber band airplane) on the motor shaft. Blow on the propeller. The bulb will light. In power stations they substitute steam, water, wind, burning gases for your breath, but it’s doing the same thing!

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