Electricity is one of the most interesting phenomena in the universe. And most of us know very little about it. It’s one of those forces of nature that we take for granted. But, while electricity has been around since the dawn of time, our ability to control and harvest electricity has not.
There are many interesting things about electricity that many of us don’t know. We’ve compiled 22 facts about electricity we think you’ll appreciate.
- Electricity travels at the speed of light – which is more than 186,000 miles per second!
- A spark of static electricity can measure up to three thousand (3,000) volts.
- A bolt of lightning can measure up to three million (3,000,000) volts – and it lasts less than one second!
- Electricity always looks for the easiest path to the ground.
- Electricity can be made from wind, water, the sun and even animal manure. As countries look for ways to lessen our negative impact on the environment, one of the primary things examined are clean ways of generating electricity.
- Burning coal is the most common way electricity is made in the United States.
- One power plant can produce enough electricity for 180,000 homes.
- The first power plant – owned by Thomas Edison – opened in New York City in 1882.
- Thomas Edison didn’t invent the first light bulb – but he did invent the first one that stayed lit for more than a few seconds.
- Thomas Edison invented more than 2,000 new products. Among these were switches, fuses, sockets and meters. Edison’s inventions are still used in today’s homes for electricity.
- Benjamin Franklin didn’t actually discover electricity, as most people think – but he did prove that lightning is a form of electrical energy.
- The movement of an electric charge is known as an electric current, the intensity of which is usually measured in amperes. Current can consist of any moving charged particles – most commonly these are electrons, but any charge in motion can be called a current.
- The energy sources we use to make electricity can be renewable or non-renewable, but electricity itself is neither renewable nor non-renewable.
- A generator is a device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. The process is based on the relationship between magnetism and electricity.
- The cost of electricity is going up (both in dollars and in environmental impact) and it shows no signs of changing.
- Electric energy is an intermediate form of energy. It is produced in thermal power stations (where fuel oil, gas, coal, biomass, etc. are burnt), in hydroelectric power stations and nuclear power stations. Smaller quantities are produced by wind, photovoltaic solar panels and other lesser known forms of electricity generation.
- Electricity travels in closed loops, or circuits. It must have a complete path before the electrons can move. If a circuit is open, the electrons cannot flow.
- In the late-1800s, Nikola Tesla pioneered the generation, transmission, and use of alternating current (AC) electricity, which can be transmitted over much greater distances than direct current (DC). Tesla’s inventions used electricity to bring indoor lighting to homes and to power industrial machines.
- When electricity was first introduced into the domestic environment it was primarily used for lighting. Only over the course of several years did more consumer electrical appliances become commonplace.
- Electricity is an extremely flexible form of energy, and it may be adapted to a huge, and growing, number of uses.
- Demand for electricity grows very quickly as a nation becomes more modern and its economy develops. The United States showed a 12% increase in demand during each year of the first three decades of the twentieth century.
- According to the US Department of Energy, an average American household used approximately 866-kilowatt hours per month in 1999.
So, as you can see, there’s a lot most of us can still learn about electricity. It’s one of our most valuable resources, and one of the energy sources we rely on most.
If you’d like to learn more about electricity at a beginner’s level, the book “Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics” by Stan Gibilisco is a great place to start.