PacB Group // Understanding the Different Types of Generators and Their Use


Understanding the Different Types of Generators and Their Use

Although the term is a relatively recent one, electricity has fascinated human beings since they first observed the power of a lightning bolt. Attempts to emulate this natural phenomenon were limited to the frictional effects between various materials that resulted in a static discharge.

One such substance was amber, which is derived from the Latin word, “electricus”, which means “resembling amber”. The first attempt to construct generators that might have a more practical use came in the form of the battery, which was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1799. He used alternate discs of copper and zinc, separated by flannel, soaked in dilute acid, to generate an electric current by chemical means, and, for just over 30 years, the battery remained the only means to do so.

It was, however, Michael Faraday’s experiments with electrical induction and the principle of the electric motor in 1831 that changed everything. Within the space of just three months, Faraday adapted the physical force of electromagnetism to replace the earlier chemical approach, and create the first of a more efficient breed of electrical generators. Since then, the effect of rotating a copper coil within a magnetic field or a magnet within a copper coil has remained the standard principle for the production of electrical current. The subsequent establishment of power stations and distribution networks has since transformed almost every aspect of the human lifestyle.

In practice, these devices are actually a means to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. In order to rotate, the magnets or coils, which are responsible for producing the electromagnetic induction effect, requires some form of engine. In turn, these engines can be powered by different fuels that include petroleum, diesel, bio-diesel, or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Although still in their infancy and not widely available, some generators now rely on engines that are powered by hydrogen.

For large-scale, commercial purposes, power companies require a means to generate vast quantities of power, and to do as inexpensively as possible. For this, they tend to depend less on costlier refined fuels, and so, coal continues to be the most widely-employed alternative in many countries. The coal is used to boil water in order to produce steam. The steam, in turn, is used to drive a turbine that provides the required mechanical energy. Though reputedly more efficient, even a nuclear reactor simply boils water to drive its generators.

Cleaner and safer, but somewhat limited by the availability of suitable waterways and the high cost of constructing dams, hydroelectric power employs the force of flowing water directly to drive the turbines while wind farms also call upon local changes in the atmospheric pressure to rotate their massive, triple-bladed turbines.

The power requirements of an industrial operation will frequently exceed those of domestic users by orders of magnitude. Nevertheless, those requirements can usually be adequately met by the installation of one or more, suitably-rated, diesel units. While some plants are remote from the national network, and must depend on these for all of their electricity, others may only utilise their generators to augment the mains supply during periods of peak loading, or to replace it in the event of a power outage.

For those at home, a relatively small petrol or diesel-driven unit should prove sufficient, but its size will be determined by what will be expected of it. Choosing to provide backup power for only the more essential purposes, such as refrigeration, lighting, and to power the kettle, TV, internet, and mobile phone chargers, will help to minimise the upfront cost. However, if you would really prefer to keep your entire home functioning as normal during a rolling blackout, there are a number of generators on the market with that sort of capability. The most important thing will be choosing the right machine for the job, so be sure to get some professional advice.

Our qualified technicians offer support and advice in the selection of the right power solution for your needs by calculating your power requirements.

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