What is electricity?
Do you know what happens when you turn on a light switch? Think about how many times a day you turn on a TV, sound system, computer, turn up the heat or cook a meal.
Electricity from batteries helps keep our cars running and makes our flashlights shine in the dark. It is also a form of energy that can produce light and heat. Most of the electricity we use comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil or natural gas. Some electric energy comes from nuclear and water power plants (dams on rivers) for people to buy and use. Rubbing your hair with a blown up balloon can produce static electricity. Or how many times have you received an electric shock walking across the carpet in your stocking feet and then touching something? That is static electricity.
Electricity can also be produced by chemical change in a flashlight battery, by sunlight (particles of light called photons) in solar silicon cell or by the wind turning an electric generator.
Atom: The smallest particle of a chemical element that can take part in a chemical reaction without being permanently changed. An atom is made up of protons and neutrons in a central nucleus surrounded by electrons.
Electron: The unit of charge of electricity found outside the nucleus of all atoms.
Nucleus: The positively charged central core of an atom.
When electrons move among the atoms of matter (a substance made of anything), a current of electricity is created.
People are concerned that the earth’s supply of fossil fuel, like coal, is limited and will run out someday. WOW!!! No more electricity! Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity may harm the environment so we need to look at other ways to product electricity that will keep our planet healthy. Gas/oil are also available but becoming more and more expensive! Such ways include solar (sun) and wind. Both solar and wind are renewable, that means they will never run out! One of the ways we use fossil fuels to create energy is with coal.
2 pounds of coal = 1000 watts (amount of power used in 1 kilowatt hour)
That’s how much coal it takes to blow-dry your hair for 1 hour. You probably get the idea of where we are going with this study, but just for the sake of explanation, everything you plug in or turn on uses electricity. Here are some examples:
Large Microwave: 1440 watts
Clothes Dryer: 4400 watts
Toaster: 1440 watts
Plasma/LCD TV 191-474 watts
Electric Oven 2000 watts
Dishwasher 3600 watts
Desktop Computer 140-340 watts
Electric Furnace (2k square ft 26,500 watts
Pretty staggering right? And, you are paying for every bit of electricity you use. You can save electricity in your home in many ways. Just replace a 100 watt bulb in your lamp with a 25 watt bulb and your will save 75 watts. But, you may wonder, how can you really save power and the environment?
Consider Solar Electricity. Sunrise to sunset you have solar electricity. We can change sunlight directly to electricity using solar cells. Every day, light hits your roof’s solar panels with photons (particles of sunlight). The solar panel convers those photons into electrons of direct current (“DC”) electricity. The electrons flow out of the solar panel and into an inverter and other electrical safety devices. The inverter converts that “DC” power (commonly used in batteries) into alternating current or “AC” power. AC power is the kind of electrical that your TV, computer, and toasters use when plugged into the wall outlet.
A net energy meter keeps track of all the power your solar system produces. Any solar energy that you do not use simultaneous with production will go back into the electrical grid through the meter. At night or on cloudy days, when your system is not producing more than your building needs, you will consume electricity from the grid as normal. Your utility will bill you for the “net” consumption for any given billing period and provide you with a dollar credit for any excess during a given period. You can carry your bill credit forward for up to a year!