To produce 40% of America’s electricity every year, all the power plants in the US together use more than a whopping 900 million short tons of coal. USA, China, and Japan are some of the world’s biggest electricity-producing countries. Find out facts about these electricity production giants in this ScienceStruck article.
|The World’s First Power Station …
… was designed and built in 1878 by Sigmund Schuckert to illuminate a grotto in the Linderhof Palace gardens in the Bavarian town of Ettal. 24 dynamo electric generators driven by a steam engine were installed to make the operation successful.
The first ever experiment involving electricity was carried out by a Greek philosopher, Thales of Miletus, by rubbing amber (or fossilized resin) against fur, which would attract stationary objects. This phenomenon was explained as static electricity. The word ‘electricity’, thus, comes from the Greek word elektron that means amber.
Electricity can be generated in several ways. The most widely used method is the electromagnetic induction method. In this method, the mechanical energy developed by heat engines, hydropower, tidal power, or wind power propels or forces an electrical generator to rotate, which generates electricity. Most of the electricity production around the world is attributed to this method of generation. Read this ScienceStruck article to know more about the amount of electricity that is produced around the world.
The following table gives an account of the annual net electricity production as well as the annual per capita net electricity production of the top ten countries.
|Country||Net Prod. (BN KW-H)||Per Capita Net Prod. (KW-H)|
World’s Top Ten Electricity-producing Countries
The net electricity production by the Government of USA was measured at a staggering 4,120 billion kilowatt-hours, making it the largest electricity producer of the world. The main energy sources used to generate electricity in the USA include thermal sources, hydropower, wind energy, nuclear power, geothermal energy, and other renewable sources. According to President Barack Obama, the recent development and implementation of renewable energy to generate electricity marks ‘a new era of exploration’.
In the second position, China has a net electricity production of 3,965 billion kilowatt-hours. It is among the top three countries that has abundant coal reserves and hydroelectric sources. The electricity sector experienced a major breakthrough in April 1996 when the Electric Power Law was implemented. This law ensured optimum development of the electric power industry by properly regulating the generation, distribution, and consumption of electricity. The law also aimed at safeguarding the legal rights of investors, managers, and consumers related to the electric power sector.
At number three, Japan – which generated a net electricity production of 1013 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010 – is not only self-sufficient when it comes to electric power supply; it is also a major exporter of the equipment needed in the energy sector. The electricity sector in Japan was heavily reliant on nuclear resources, and nuclear energy was the answer to all power generation woes. However, unreliable seismic activity proved hazardous, and most nuclear plants were forced to shut down. Japan produces most of its electricity with the help of hydroelectricity, along with other renewable sources, like biomass, wind, solar power, etc.
Russia takes pride in being the second-largest region to be abundant in coal reserves. Coming in after USA, China, and Japan, Russia generated a massive 983.195 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2010. It produces electricity mainly from natural gas and coal. More than 60% of its electricity is generated by thermal plants. Other sources of Russia’s electricity generation include nuclear reactors, hydropower, wind, and other renewable resources. It is the fifth-largest hydroelectricity generator in the world. Russia is known to export electricity to countries, like Poland, Latvia, Finland, Turkey, and Lithuania.
With a net electricity production of 879.99 billion kilowatt-hours in the year 2010, India places fifth in the list of the world’s top ten electricity-producing countries. A majority, almost more than 50%, of India’s electric power supply comes from coal-powered plants. Hydropower and renewable energy resources contribute a lesser share towards power generation. India’s power generation capacity has increased manifold in the last two decades, from 66 GW in 1991 to 199 GW in 2012. This growth has led India to become one of the fastest growing markets for electricity generation, distribution, and consumption. Many reasons, like rapid growth in the economy, household incomes, and urban development have given a boost to the electric power sector in India.
Producing a net generation of 580.82 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2010, Canada comes in at the sixth position in this list. Apart from renewable sources and nuclear power plants, hydroelectricity has played a major role in the production of electricity in Canada. Other sources of electric power generation include wind energy, coal and natural gas, wood, fuel, petroleum, and coke. The Canadian government, which owns integrated public utilities, has taken it in their stride to maintain a stronghold over the production, distribution, transmission, and consumption of electricity.
Not only is Germany the world’s largest country to produce electricity by the use of non-hydro means and renewable sources, it is also the second-largest operator of wind-powered electricity generation. Not far behind, on the seventh position among the world’s top ten electricity-producing countries, Germany generated a net electric supply of 576.756 billion kilowatt-hours in the year 2010. Fossil fuels, biomass fuels, wind, and solar power are some of the sources used to generate electricity in Germany.
In 2010, France generated a net electricity production of 538.963 billion kilowatt-hours, making it the eighth-highest in this list. The primary source of energy in France is nuclear power. More than 75% of the country’s total electricity production was from nuclear power. Precisely 78.8% of nuclear power was utilized to generate electricity for France. Owing to this, the nuclear energy and nuclear powered-industry is labeled a ‘success story’, which provides efficient, carbon dioxide-free, cheap, and pollution-free electricity. In 2012, France was the biggest exporter of electricity.
Although it does not lead as the world’s top electricity-producing country, Brazil does have the largest market for electricity in South America. It also has the largest capacity for water storage. Brazil’s electric power sector is highly dependent on hydropower to maintain its share of electricity production, consumption, transmission, and distribution. It produced 489.525 billion kilowatt-hours of net electricity in 2010. More than 80% of its electricity needs and demands are met by hydroelectricity alone. This extreme dependence on hydropower makes Brazil vulnerable to electric power shortages in times of droughts. Other sources of power generation include nuclear energy, biomass fuel, natural gas, coal, oil, and wind energy.
Coming in at the tenth position in this list of electricity-producing giants, South Korea recorded a net electricity production of 450.135 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010. More than two-third of the entire electricity production is accounted for by thermal power plants in the region. South Korea’s shortcomings to use hydropower or other renewable sources for electric power generation were met by focusing and developing the nuclear power industry.
Different Methods of Electricity Production
The basic methods used to generate electric energy from other forms of energy are:
Based on Faraday’s law, this is the most used form of electricity generation, where kinetic energy is transformed to electricity.
In this method, electricity is generated by physical separation and transport of charge. An example is lightning.
As the name suggests, in this method, electricity is generated by the direct transformation of chemical energy into electricity. An example is a battery.
Electricity is generated by conversion of light to electrical energy in this method. An example is solar cells.
Temperature differences are directly converted to electricity in the thermoelectric effect. An example is thermocouple.
In this method, electricity is produced from the mechanical strain in electrically anisotropic molecules.
The generation and acceleration of charged particles, like an alpha particle emission, generates electricity in this method.
Today, it is not only difficult, but highly impossible to imagine life without electricity. It is, however, also true that more than 80% of the air pollution is caused due to the production of electricity in the US of A alone. Although it is unthinkable to function without electricity, the key is to not go overboard, and take control while it still can be done.