The discovery of electricity and the introduction at a large scale, by the end of the 19th century, changed many parts of the world. The availability of electricity in these areas empowered people and boosted industrialization, though it has also created a division of labor and largely destroyed human creativity and craftsmanship.
Although many people believe the opposite, electricity is no energy! Electricity, as we use it in our daily lives, is ‘force in a state of transformation’. The photovoltaic cell forms an exception here. Here the engineers are working with the weak nuclear interaction.
The production of electricity needs, in all other situations, the input of force for operating the generator or alternator.
The properties of electricity are beautiful. Electricity can be concentrated and stored in a battery, the battery makes electricity (heat, force, light) ‘mobile’. Electricity can be converted back into force (torque) by means of an electric motor. Electricity can, without substantial loss, easily be converted into heat and light. And finally, it can power electronic devices for computing and communication.
Thomas Edison and Dr. Nikola Tesla played an important role in the implementation and distribution of electricity. Inductive coupling is widely used for transferring electricity wireless over short distances. High voltage power lines, up to 1.000.000 Volts are used to transfer electricity over long distances.
Gas insulated power transfer lines (GIL) can be built underground and are able to transfer high voltage electricity in a much safer way over long distances. It is remarkable that scientists have found liquids (gasses) that are able to isolate electric current.
Sulfur hexafluoride, SF6, is currently under investigation for the use in switch gears and GIL power lines. Alternative gasses are now entering the market. GIL is still under controlling patents and therefore not widely used.
Almost all end use equipment is micro equipment. Therefore there are no real obstructions for developing an infrastructure of micro generation of electricity and this ‘micro infrastructure’ can quite easily be integrated with existing, low- and high voltage infrastructure for electricity distribution.
Micro grids can be designed in a way that they also supports high voltage systems. High voltage systems are important tools for stabilization of the electricity grid because of their limited but very important ability to ‘store’ free electrons (electricity).
In electricity generation, the generator is a device that converts motive power (mechanical energy) into electrical power for use in an external circuit. Sources of mechanical energy include steam turbines, gas turbines, water turbines, internal combustion engines, wind turbines and even hand cranks. The first electromagnetic generator, the Faraday disk, was invented in 1831 by British scientist Michael Faraday. Generators provide nearly all the power for electric power grids.
The reverse conversion of electrical energy into mechanical energy is done by an electric motor, and motors and generators have many similarities. Many motors can be mechanically driven to generate electricity and frequently make acceptable manual generators.