A Basic Guide to Generators
Generators, in simple terms, transform mechanical energy into much-needed electricity. There are many kinds of generators, and the larger the generator, the more power is produced. At one end of the scale, mega structures like dams produce enough electricity to power entire cities and large swaths of entire nations. On the opposite end, portable generator sets produce a small amount of electricity to power a few portable devices, and maybe one or two power-hungry appliances.
One of the earliest forms of the generator is called the dynamo, derived from the Greek word for power or force. The dynamo is considered as the precursor to many power conversion devices that are used today, like the electric motor. Alternators have since taken over many of the functions dynamos perform. Today, large generators have allowed large-scale centralised power generation that can be distributed to far away areas through transmission lines.
In the mid-1800s, English scientist Michael Faraday formalised the principles surrounding electromagnetic induction and the transformation of mechanical energy into electricity. Prior to Faraday's discovery, scientists have recognised metallic and nonmetallic conductors and their potential usage in the transformation of energy.
By the turn of the 20th century, people have recognised the utility and importance of electricity in improving everyday life. Governments all over the world began to build power grids that aimed to encompass an entire nation, albeit at a slow pace. Those beyond the reach of these grids improvised in order to take advantage of new inventions like domestic refrigerators and light bulbs. People utilised petrol-driven generators to create a working electric current. Some even converted old windmills and water wheels to generate electricity.
Electric current flow is either alternating (AC) or direct (DC). In direct current, the electricity only flows in one direction, or in a loop. In alternating current, the electric charge regularly changes directions.
Ohm's law is handy to keep in mind when talking about electricity. According to Ohm's law, the current is directly proportional to the voltage. Voltage, on the other hand, is the force responsible for driving electrons along a conductor.
The less resistance voltage experiences, the higher the current, meaning the flow is improved. We use ohm for measuring resistance and ampere for current. Watt, meanwhile, is the measure of power.
There are many generators for sale, and all generators, regardless of type or size, operate on the same principle. A hydroelectric dam like the Three Gorges Dam or Hoover Dam generates electricity through a complex system of turbines, shafts, magnets and metal coils. Small generator sets use the same elements that are used in large hydroelectric dams. In this case, water turbines are replaced by internal combustion.
Many factors affect the power that drives the generator. Altitude, fuel type, ambient temperature and other factors can affect the generator unit itself and the power source.
Simply put, a generator unit is the inverse of an electric motor. Electric motors convert electrical energy into mechanical energy, while electrical generators convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. But the concept is much more complex than that. In generator units, a mechanical force drives the shaft coupled to the rotor and electricity is generated in the armature windings. In an electric motor, magnetic forces drive the shaft.
Generators also operate according to a simple concept: The higher the RPM and the power, the more electric current is generated. If the user powers down the engine, voltage is lowered and amperage is increased, which could lead to damage to the generator's components. Furthermore, drawing more wattage than the generator can provide will damage the generator unit and associated electronics.
There exists a common misconception that generator units are loud machines. The generator itself is not exceptionally loud. The engine that drives the generator is the one creating the noise.
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