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(The information below was provided by the Energy Information Administration; a Division of the Department of Energy)[image size=”none” no_lightbox=”false” open_new_tab=”false” align=”right” fancy=”true” shadow=”true”]http://www.roundrockelectricity.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/round-rock-electricity-sources.png[/image]
Most of the electricity in the United States is produced using steam turbines.
In a steam turbine, steam is forced against a series of blades mounted on a shaft, thus rotating the shaft connected to the generator. The generator, in turn, converts its mechanical energy to electrical energy based on the relationship between magnetism and electricity.
In steam turbines powered by fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum (oil), and natural gas, the fuel is burned in a furnace to heat water in a boiler to produce steam.
Fossil Fuels Generate Most U.S. Power (Coal and Natural Gas)
In 2011, coal was the fuel for about 42% of the electricity generated in the United States
In 2011, 25% of the Nation’s electricity was fueled by natural gas. Natural gas, in addition to being burned to heat water for steam, can also be burned to produce hot combustion gases that pass directly through a turbine, spinning the turbine’s blades to generate electricity. Gas turbines are commonly used when electricity utility usage is in high demand.
Nuclear Power Provides About One-Fifth of U.S. Electricity
Nuclear power was used to generate about 19% of all the Country’s electricity in 2011. Nuclear power is a method in which steam is produced by heating water through a process called nuclear fission. In a nuclear power plant, a reactor contains a core of nuclear fuel, primarily uranium. When atoms of uranium fuel are hit by neutrons, they split releasing heat and more neutrons. The heat is used to turn water into steam, that, in turn, spins a turbine that generates electricity.
Renewable Energy Sources Make Up the Rest
Hydropower, the source for 8% of U.S. electricity generation in 2011, is a process in which flowing water is used to spin a turbine connected to a generator. There are two basic types of hydroelectric systems that produce electricity. In the first system, flowing water accumulates in reservoirs created by dams. The water falls through a pipe called a penstock and applies pressure against the turbine blades to drive the generator to produce electricity.
In the second system, called run-of-river, water is diverted from a river using a relatively low dam or weir into penstocks and turbines. The dam does not store a large volume of water in a reservoir. Run-of-river power plants are more dependent on river flows than hydro plants with reservoirs for storing water which can produce electricity even when natural river flows are low.
Wind power is produced by converting wind energy into electricity. Electricity generation from wind has increased significantly in the United States since 1970, but wind power remains a small fraction of U.S. electricity generation, about 3% in 2011.
Solar power is derived from energy from the sun. There are two main types of technologies for converting solar energy to electricity: photovoltaic (PV) and solar-thermal electric. PV conversion produces electricity directly from sunlight in a photovoltaic (solar) cell. Solar-thermal electric generators concentrate solar energy to heat a fluid and produce steam to drive turbines. In 2011, less than 1% of the Nation’s electricity was from solar power.