The Evolution of Commercial and Industrial Generators for Sale
The generator is a miracle most people now take for granted. Load shedding apart, people living in South Africa’s towns and cities and many of those in remote urban areas can generally access the many benefits of electricity at the flick of a switch. When it first became available for commercial use, electric current was greeted mainly as a markedly more efficient illumination source than gaslight. However, electricity soon became the motive power for a plethora of new applications.
Today, we use electricity to power everything from kitchen appliances, washing machines and television sets to life-saving hospital equipment, factory machinery and public transport. In time, it seems inevitable that electric motors will replace the internal combustion engine and fossil fuels as the preferred propulsion system for ships and even aircraft.
From Where Does All That Power Come?
Delivering electricity to our homes and businesses is the task of utility companies such as Eskom. To perform their role, the service provider must operate a network of power stations linked by a nationwide reticulation system to combine, sustain, and distribute their outputs.
The multiple hearts of such a system are generators of various types. These are the machines directly responsible for producing the power for sale to the consumer. Generators come in multiple forms including models for domestic, and industrial use. Each employs the same fundamental operating principle. The role of each is to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, and the individual types differ only in terms of the source of that mechanical energy.
The Humble Origins of the Generator
The scientific principle underlying the operation of these machines was established during the early 1930s. The eventual development of a sufficiently reliable generator for sale to the industry can be attributed to the pioneering work of Michael Faraday and Joseph Henry. The pair, independently, discovered and recorded the physical phenomenon now known as electromagnetic induction, which later became the basis of “Faraday’s Law”. Faraday’s research revealed that when moving a magnet backwards and forwards inside a coil of copper wire, it creates a potential difference, causing a flow of electrical current through the wire.
While his discovery was exciting, his experimental apparatus had no practical use beyond demonstrating this newly-discovered phenomenon. It was a Frenchman named Hippolyte Pixii who, in 1832, became the first person to construct a working dynamo. Ironically, he perceived his invention as flawed because it could only produce a pulsed output of current rather than a continuous flow. In practice, he had inadvertently built the world’s first alternating current (AC) generator. However, because he had no way of knowing that most of the worlds power companies would eventually adopt AC as their preferred current type, he then devoted the bulk of his time attempting to correct the so-called flaw in his continued efforts to generate direct current (DC).
So What Powers the Power Source?
Faraday discovered that an electromotive force (EMF) could be induced in a conductor by exposing it to a varying magnetic flux. In more practical terms this means that if you surround a coil of copper wire with a ring of magnets, rotating either the coil or the magnets will generate a current in the coil. The output from the coil can then be used to perform work. As stated earlier, generators work by using mechanical energy to produce electricity. In other words, some form of energy is necessary to provide the rotation, and there are several different ways to achieve this.
In South Africa, the most commonly-used method to provide the rotational energy for commercial power generation is a steam-driven turbine. To produce the steam, a utility company may choose to burn coal, oil, or gas, or to utilise the heat from a nuclear reactor. However, the sources of these fossil fuels are finite, and reserves are declining rapidly. Moreover, widespread fears regarding the impact of fossil fuels on the environment and particularly their role in climate change only emphasise the urgency of finding more sustainable ways to produce the mechanical energy to drive our generators. While many believe nuclear power to be our potential saviour, the problem of disposing of radioactive waste combined with the risk of nuclear accidents such as those at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, continue to delay the acceptance of nuclear power in many parts of the world.
The Quest for Renewable Energy
If the fusion reactor should become a viable proposition, then fears regarding nuclear power could cease to be a deterrent, providing generating companies with a new and more sustainable option. In practice, many countries have been employing renewable energy to generate at least some of their electricity requirement for decades. Long before photovoltaic cells and wind turbines appeared, running water was providing motive power to the turbines in many power stations. However, damming a river can do more than merely creating a head of water sufficient to drive a turbine. A dam can also act as a reservoir and even a recreational facility.
Unfortunately, not every country has rivers suitable for a hydroelectric scheme. Much like the desert nations, instead, these will need to rely on one or more of the more recent technologies to leverage renewable energy. Currently, solar panels and wind turbines are dominating the move to renewables. Of the two, the wind turbine most closely resembles the conventional generator. Like the windmills that millers once used to turn the grindstones that produced flour from grain, these gigantic structures leverage the wind to drive a generator’s turbine. As the output from a single wind turbine is minimal, it is common practice to interconnect multiple units to form the large arrays we now refer to as wind farms.
Solar Is a Whole Other Story
For practical purposes, one can assume the sun is a potentially limitless source of energy. We experience some of that energy as heat and some we perceive as light. Some might only be evident indirectly due to its effects. For example, photosynthesis vital for growth in green plants. Producing power from solar cells differs from other generating technologies because no mechanical energy is involved. Solar panels neither have nor need any moving parts. Instead, photons in sunlight displace electrons from specially treated materials know as semiconductors to create the current.
When checking out generators for sale for industrial or commercial use, call the PacB Group – South Africa’s specialist in the design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance of innovative power solutions. The group may be unable to sell you a wind turbine, but it can help you with a solar-powered renewable energy solution.
Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.