Electrical energy is obtained from various energy resources; the process of energy conversion is completed at power generating stations. The energy resources may be renewable or non-renewable and each energy resource has a different impact on the environment.
Energy exists in different forms in nature but the most important form is the electrical energy. The modern society is so much dependent upon the use of electrical energy that it has become a part and parcel of our life. In this article, we shall focus our attention on the general aspects of electrical energy, its generation, transmission and distribution system which is known as Power System.
Power Generating Stations
The conversion of energy available in different forms in nature into electrical energy is known as the generation of electrical energy. The location where the is transformed from one form to another is called Power Generating Station.
Electrical energy is a manufactured commodity like clothing, furniture or tools. Just as the manufacture of a commodity involves the conversion of raw materials available in nature into the desired form, similarly electrical energy is produced from the forms of energy available in nature. However, electrical energy differs in one important respect. Whereas other commodities may be produced at will and consumed as needed, the electrical energy must be produced and transmitted to the point of use at the instant it is needed. The entire process takes only a fraction of a second. This instantaneous production of electrical energy introduces technical and economical considerations unique to the electrical power industry.
Energy is available in various forms from different natural sources such as pressure head of water, the
The arrangement essentially employs (see above Fig) an alternator coupled to a prime mover. The prime mover is driven by the energy obtained from various sources such as the burning of fuel, the pressure of water, the force of wind etc. For example, the chemical energy of a fuel (e.g., coal) can be used to produce steam at high temperature and pressure. The steam is fed to a prime mover which may be a steam engine or a steam turbine. The turbine converts heat energy of steam into mechanical energy which is further converted into electrical energy by the alternator. Similarly, other forms of energy can be converted into electrical energy by employing suitable machinery and equipment.
Since electrical energy is produced from energy available in various forms in nature, it is desirable to look into the various energy resources. These sources of energy are:
(i) The Sun
(ii) The Wind
(v) Nuclear energy.
Out of these energy sources, the energy due to Sun and wind has not been utilised on large scale due to a number of limitations. At present, the other three sources viz., water, fuels and nuclear energy are primarily used for the generation of electrical energy.
(i) Solar Energy
The Sun is the primary source of energy. The heat energy radiated by the Sun can be focussed over a small area by means of reflectors. This heat can be used to raise steam and electrical energy can be produced with the help of turbine-alternator combination. However, this method has limited application because : (a) it requires a large area for the generation of even a small amount of electric power (b) it cannot be used in cloudy days or at night (c) it is an uneconomical method. Nevertheless, there are some locations in the world where strong solar radiation is received very regularly and the sources of mineral fuel are scanty or lacking. Such locations offer more interest to the solar plant builders.
(ii) Wind Energy
This method can be used where wind flows for a considerable length of time. The wind energy is used to run the wind mill which drives a small generator. In order to obtain the electrical energy from a wind mill continuously, the generator is arranged to charge the batteries. These batteries supply the energy when the wind stops. This method has the advantages that maintenance and generation costs are negligible. However, the drawbacks of this method are (a) variable output, (b) unreliable because of uncertainty about wind pressure and (c) power generated is quite small.
(iii) Hydroelectric Energy
When water is stored at a suitable place, it possesses potential energy because of the head created. This water energy can be converted into mechanical energy with the help of water turbines. The water turbine drives the alternator which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. This method of generation of electrical energy has become very popular because it has low production and maintenance costs.
(iv) Fossil Fuels
The main sources of energy are fuels viz., solid fuel as coal, liquid fuel as oil and gas fuel as natural gas. The heat energy of these fuels is converted into mechanical energy by suitable prime movers such as steam engines, steam turbines, internal combustion engines etc. The prime mover drives the alternator which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. Although fuels continue to enjoy the place of
(v) Nuclear Energy
Towards the end of Second World War, it was discovered that large amount of heat energy is liberated by the fission of uranium and other fissionable materials. It is estimated that heat produced by 1 kg of nuclear fuel is equal to that produced by 4500 tonnes of coal. The heat produced due to nuclear fission can be utilised to raise steam with suitable arrangements. The steam can run the steam turbine which in turn can drive the alternator to produce electrical energy. However, there are some difficulties in the use of nuclear energy. The principal ones are (a) high cost of nuclear plant (b) problem of disposal of radioactive waste and dearth of trained personnel to handle the plant.
We hope you’ve found out about various energy resources and how they are converted to electric energy. There are other energy resources that need
You may also want to read how electric energy is transmitted from generating stations to consumers and Load flow analysis of a power network.
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