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The origin of electricity

If you've ever wondered about where electricity comes from, we have the answers for you. Learn about the most common sources of electricity and how we generate power.

When you look around you, electricity is everywhere. Even the screen you are using to read this blog is powered by electricity. But, where does this electricity come from? As far as many of us are concerned, electricity is almost magical, but science is behind the miraculous electricity that flows into our homes and business, and we can explain it.

 

Where does this electricity come from?

Electricity is a secondary energy source. This means that unlike fossil fuels, nature does not make it available for us to gather and use without some kind of processing. Of course, the lightning produced by atmospheric storms has a huge electrical charge, but we have no way of storing this energy or knowing where storms will occur. That means that we need to generate electricity using other sources, primary sources.

"Electricity is a secondary energy source. This means that it is not available in nature for us to gather and use."

The main primary energy sources are oil, natural gas, coal, solar radiation, wind power and tidal power. The electricity that powers the fridges in our homes and the screens of the devices we use to connect to the internet every day are largely powered by these sources. When we say ‘secondary energy source’ we mean that electricity is generated by firstly transforming a primary energy source. Naturally, producing energy entails doing more than just gathering large amounts of primary energy sources.

The fact is that, depending on each case, we need to use different physical and chemical processes to obtain it. Secondary energy sources are not contained in primary energy sources. It is more a question of using the primary source to generate energy using different methods of varying complexity.

Basically, it is important to understand that electricity is a type of energy that comes from other sources. Now we know where it originates, it is time to find out how it is produced. This is a fundamental step that has an enormous impact on its cost and affects the final bill.

 

Where does electricity come from?

As we have already explained, there are numerous primary sources of energy, and our job is to transform these into electricity. We are going to give you a step-by-step breakdown of the process. However, the method varies depending on the circumstances.

"We have a wide variety of primary energy sources and our goal is to convert these into electricity"

Thermoelectric plants

We use oil and coal to produce electricity in thermoelectric plants. The job of these plants is to produce electricity from the heat generated by the combustion of the highly flammable materials mentioned. This heat causes the water filled pipes to heat up turning the water inside into steam. The steam reaches such high temperatures and pressures that it turns one or more turbines connected to an alternator, which produces large amounts of electricity.

This illustrates a process whereby we obtain electricity with a simple process using energy sources that are available in nature (fossil fuels, in this case). But this principle is not only applicable to combustible materials like gas and coal.

Nuclear energy

Nuclear power plants work in quite a similar way, but the heat they need is generated by nuclear fission.

 

Electricity from clean sources

Wind power

In the case of other primary energy sources, such as the wind, the process is similar to that described above, but without one crucial step. Here, wind turbines or windmills have turbines and alternators that produce the electricity directly. There is no need to burn anything or to generate heat or waste. No nuclear waste is produced, either. That’s why it is called clean energy. The electricity is produced by the air in our atmosphere, which triggers the mechanical process that generates the electricity. That is why it is considered one of the lowest impact methods at all levels and is fast gaining popularity.

"Enormous wind turbines or windmills have turbines and alternators that produce the electricity directly."
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Hydroelectric power plants

The process for producing electricity with water is quite similar. Hydroelectric power plants use the movement of waterfalls or strong currents to generate power.. It is the inertia of the flowing or falling water that moves the turbines, which are connected to an alternator to generate the electricity needed to supply homes.

Thermosolar plants

Another important source is the energy that comes from the sun. Solar thermal power plants transform sunlight into energy using panels that consist of semiconductor metal sheets called photovoltaic cells. Photons from sunlight reach the photovoltaic cells and an electrical circuit forms. 

Is energy only produced through electricity?

This is not true, although it might appear so. As we have been explaining, our homes and businesses depend on electricity. There’s no question that most of the energy that we consume is electricity. In most cases, heat from radiators, cool air from air conditioners and the heat to cook our food comes from appliances that work using electrical energy, duly transformed and adapted to a standardised voltage and amperage.

However, we also have gas stoves and radiators, for example, and most vehicles are still powered by oil derivatives. Although we can use these different sources side by side without a problem, we are moving towards a world in which most of the energy we use in our daily lives is electrical. When you think about it, all or almost all the energy that surrounds us comes from electricity, from the batteries in our smartphones to the traffic lights that get us across the street and the lifts we use to travel up to our apartments.

Our lives are intrinsically linked to a type of energy that, strangely, does not exist in nature. Or at least not in the ways that we use it, although it does appear, in some way or another, in some very unexpected places.Two people kissing can create an electrical charge! Truth be told, it is quite normal to ask yourself where this invisible force comes from, how it is produced and how it works, because during the last century, it has become everyone's partner in life.

That’s why Endesa offers different rates to suit your way of life, so you can use energy your way. Whether you want electricity, gas, or both. Take a look, find your perfect plan, start saving and stop worrying!

Comparison of Electricity and Gas Tariffs

You don't need to adapt to Endesa's tariffs because they adapt to you. If you go to our catalogue you can compare the different tariffs for yourself. Or if you prefer, you can answer a few questions and we will take care of comparing all the different electricity and gas tariffs and then make a customised recommendation.

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