UPS Basics: Do You Know Where Your Power Is Generated?

Do you know how electricity is produced? Our animated UPS Basics video explains power generation and how electricity gets from the National Grid to the country’s homes and businesses.

Electricity is fundamental to every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s watching our favourite programmes on TV or online, or powering the offices and factories where we work, a clean and continuous electrical supply is a must.

The average house uses 500 watts of power an hour, and that’s even when you’re sleeping! At peak times, demands on the National Grid can top 50 gigawatts of power. But do you know how power stations actually generate electricity? And how does that electricity get to our houses and commercial properties?

Find out everything you need to know about power generation with this informative film:

Video Transcript

Hi I’m Steve. Today we’re going to talk about power generation in the UK. Our electricity is currently produced by a variety of sources like fossil fuels, which include coal, oil and natural gas, renewables such as solar and wind, and lastly nuclear.

Each source uses turbines and generators to convert their fuel into electricity. For example, the nuclear or fossil-based fuel produces steam or gas that moves the blades of a turbine. The spinning turbine is then connected to a generator that turns a large magnet surrounded by three copper coils.

Electrons around the copper coils get excited by the rotating of the generator’s magnet. It is the movement of these electrons down a cable that we know as electricity.

All power is generated as what is known as Alternating Current, also referred to as AC. The AC voltage is when the voltage generated changes direction and then back again. This is caused by the rotational effect of the magnet in the original power plant.

As we move forward, more reliance is being placed on renewable energy, which means the methods of energy generation are being changed.

Renewables currently produce more than 20% of the UK’s electricity. It is likely to increase to 30% by 2020 due to government-led targets.

Regardless of the method of generation, all electricity is fed through a large transformer at the power plant, which increases the voltage. This higher voltage electricity is then fed into the distribution network that we know as the National Grid.

Local sub-stations around the country take the electricity and reduce the voltage to levels that can be utilised by industrial, commercial, and domestic users.

This electricity starts life with the power stations at around 400 kilovolts. By the time it reaches your home it has been reduced to 230 volts.

All the electricity generated and fed into the National Grid is three-phase. Three-phase and single-phase electricity that is then delivered to us is derived from the same electrical supply too.

Remember the copper coils at the power plant? Each of the three phases is generated by one of those copper coils that surrounded the rotating magnet. Whilst this gives us a three-phase supply, we can take one of these three phases to create a single-phase.

Single-phase electricity is used typically for smaller applications. It is also what is provided to a standard household in the UK.

On average, a UK household will use 500 watts every hour. That’s even when you’re sleeping. That means that at peak times the National Grid needs to provide 50 gigawatts of power.

That’s enough power to time travel 41 times in a DeLorean!

Watch the complete UPS Basics series: