Three interesting facts about electricity | Editorial
Electricity turns darkness into light, makes hot food cold and cold food hot, washes dishes and searches the Internet. It is essential to our daily lives, so much so that we rarely think about it. But behind the scenes, interesting things are happening.
Here are three interesting facts about electricity that have even some experts scratching and shaking their heads.
1. Electricity must be used or stored after it is produced.
A rechargeable battery stores electricity – more on that later. But the type of electricity you use in your home must be used after it is produced.
It’s true. Electricity generated from power plants, solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric dams in the United States must be perfectly timed when you decide to cook, wash clothes, or watch television. The nation’s network of electrical generators, cables and substations is an incredibly complex network that allows electricity to flow smoothly.
A vast and complex system of apparatus controls this flow of energy in a perfectly balanced way. This is one reason why utility operators need to be strategic when adding renewable energy to the country’s energy mix – a coal or natural gas plant can ramp up or down production fast enough to respond to changes in energy demand. But solar power and wind power are more dependent on the whims of Mother Nature, which adds an extra degree of difficulty to energy management. However, advances in technology could change that.
Large-scale battery storage technology is improving rapidly, allowing large batteries to offer power utilities another way to better balance the flow and timing of electricity. Wider use of large-scale batteries could also make it easier to add solar and wind power to our grid – storing power when it’s breezy and sunny, then using it at night and in calm weather.
2. Power outage? Blame a squirrel.
Although inclement weather causes most outages, if the weather is nice and your electricity goes out, it could be caused by a squirrel.
We all know to play it safe around electricity, but squirrels don’t. They frolic and chew around transformers, substations and utility poles where they can disrupt high-voltage equipment, knocking out power for you and me.
But it’s not just squirrels. Snakes, birds and other critters can end up in dangerous places. There is no official record of wildlife-caused power outages, but estimates are as high as 20%.
Electric utilities are constantly devising new ways to keep wildlife away from hazardous electrical equipment – the resulting power interruptions are annoying to us power consumers, and always deadly to the squirrel.
3. Highways could charge electric vehicles in the future.
If the researchers were successful, electric vehicles wouldn’t need to plug in – they could charge while being driven.
“Wireless dynamic charging” projects are underway around the world. The idea is similar to the wireless chargers you can buy for your home electronics, the kind you can place near a charger rather than plugging in the smartphone or other device.
Charging cars while they are driving on the highway is of course much more ambitious. But some developers predict that within five years, in addition to today’s high-occupancy vehicle lanes for rush hour traffic in major cities, there could be sections of vehicle charging lanes .
Futurists expect electric trucks to be the most likely users of wireless charging lanes. After all, most electric cars can charge overnight in a residential garage. Dynamic wireless truck charging could allow deliveries to continue rather than having drivers sitting around and drinking coffee for the few hours it would take a conventional plug-in to get trucks back to full power.
Electricity is such a part of our daily lives that it’s easy to forget about it. But once in a while it’s good to think about all its benefits and mysteries. This awareness can help ensure that we are paying attention to safety precautions, but also, sometimes it is good to be surprised.
For more information on electricity, visit: www.svalleyec.com.