Electricity is produced in a generating plant. The simplest type of generator has two main components: a rotating magnet called the "rotor," which turns inside stationary coils of copper wire called the "stator."
When the rotor rotates through the magnetic field, it generates a flow of current through the copper coils of the stator. Generating plants must use some form of energy or fuel to turn the rotor.
Most electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels: coal, natural gas, and, to a much lesser extent, fuel oil. These fuels are burned in a boiler to turn water into steam. Under high pressure, the steam turns the blades of a turbine that spins a generator, producing electricity.
- In a nuclear plant, steam is produced by the controlled splitting of uranium atoms in a process known as nuclear fission.
- In a hydropower plant, moving water provides the energy to turn the turbine blades.
- With wind turbines, the flow of wind turns the turbine blades, which then turn an electric generator.
- With solar power, sunlight is converted into electricity through solar cells that absorb the sun's energy.