Young, curious minds often come up with the most interesting questions – where does energy come from? It seems like a simple question, but is there really a simple answer?
Firstly, energy can take many different forms. There is the energy from the sun (or solar energy) which green plants use to grow through a process called photosynthesis. These plants provide energy for animals and also for humans; who eat the plants and animals for food.
But there is another type of energy which we use in our homes. Most of us use gas or electricity in our homes to keep warm and for daily activities like cooking dinner, taking a shower or watching TV. When it gets dark we turn on lights and the light bulbs use energy to illuminate our homes.
So how does the gas and electricity get to our homes? And where does it come from in the first place?
Where does electricity come from?
Across the country there are around 2,000 power stations that generate the energy we use in our homes. The power stations use coal, gas and nuclear energy, and some use renewable energy such as hydro power and wind farms.
Here’s how power plants make electricity from coal…
- Coal is dug up from a mine then transported by train or boat to the power station.
- Inside the power station, the coal is burned to heat water and this creates steam.
- The steam spins a turbine, which is a big fan.
- The turbine moves a large magnet around a piece of wire, and the movement creates a magnetic field which electrifies the wire.
- The electric current is pushed out through high-voltage transformers.
Once the electricity is made, all that’s left is to get it to your home. Take a look outside and you’ll see some rather tall electricity pylons, each connect with a wire that runs high above the ground. It’s through these wires – the power lines – that electricity flows to your neighbourhood and, indeed, your house.
What about gas?
Natural gas is found under the Earth’s surface and we have to drill down to get it, then use pumps and wells to bring it to the surface. The gas gets to your house through a series of pipes, called gas mains, and smaller pipes inside your house connect to the cooker and boiler.
And what influences gas and electricity prices? Gas and electricity prices can always fluctuate, so it’s sensible to do an electricity and gas comparison to check you’re getting the best deal.
The cost of energy changes for a number of reasons. The supply and demand from customers is a big reason for prices going up or down – basically like many other things, if demand is high then the gas or electricity will be cheaper – and the cost of oil also has an effect.
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Catherine Halsey writes for a digital marketing agency on a range of subjects. This article was written on behalf of npower.