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How do you generate electricity?

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Quick Answer

There are two methods normally associated with generating electricity. First is alternating current, typically achieved by spinning a large magnet in a loop of wire. The second method is electrochemistry, which uses a chemical reaction to generate electricity; examples include batteries and fuel cells.

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Full Answer

Other methods of electricity generation include static electricity, photovoltaic, thermoelectric, piezoelectric and nuclear transformation. Static electricity was the first method discovered and is still used in a few modern devices, but it is a small percentage of electricity generation compared to other forms. The primary method of electricity generation is alternating current, which involves spinning turbines moved by wind, water or steam. As the turbine spins, it is connected to a large magnet inside of a loop of wire. The polarity of the magnet forces electrons to move along the transmission lines, delivering electricity to homes and businesses.

Batteries come in two main categories and are typically described as rechargeable and non-rechargeable. Rechargeable batteries must be charged before use and are able to recharge many times by reversing the chemical reaction with electricity. Non-rechargeable batteries can produce electricity immediately, have a higher density than rechargeable batteries but once depleted cannot be reused.

Sixty-seven percent of the United States' electricity generation is from fossil fuels, of which 39 percent is coal. Nuclear is 19 percent, and hydropower is 7 percent. Wind is approximately 4 percent.

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