What are Some Methods of Power Generation?

Michael Anissimov

Mankind has been generating electricity on an industrial scale since 1881. The first power plants used hydroelectric power and coal power. Since then, other methods of power generation have been introduced: natural gas, oil, nuclear, and small amounts of power generated by solar, tidal, wind, and geothermal sources. In 2006, about 15% of global power generation was through nuclear, 16% through hydro, 68% through fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), and less than 1% through renewables (solar, wind, tidal).

Solar panels can generate clean, sustainable power.
Solar panels can generate clean, sustainable power.

Power generation involves either transforming heat energy, such a burning oil, into mechanical energy, or mechanical energy, such as the moving blades of a windmill, into electrical energy, using a generator. Even in the case of an advanced power source such as nuclear, the heat from fissioning nuclei is used to heat water, which turns a turbine and provides electricity.

A nuclear power plant.
A nuclear power plant.

Power has been generated in large quantities since the Industrial Revolution, when it was used to run everything from power looms to chemical synthesis plants. Since then, mankind's thirst for electricity has increased exponentially, and we have resorted to whatever methods possible for power generation.

High profile accidents, such as the Chernobyl disaster, have slowed the growth of nuclear power generation.
High profile accidents, such as the Chernobyl disaster, have slowed the growth of nuclear power generation.

Especially since the 1980s, the Western world has been seeking to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels and increase the use of renewables, but had little success. The two primary issues concerning the use of fossil fuel power have been the possible financing of terrorists and the release of greenhouse gases through combustion. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been indicated as a major cause of global warming.

A turbine designed to generate energy from the wind.
A turbine designed to generate energy from the wind.

Alternative power generation methods proposed thus far have been creative, but insufficient to phase the world off fossil fuels. Following the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents, the public, especially in the United States, has been reluctant to fully support nuclear power, although it may be making a comeback.

Once generated, power is distributed via the power grid.
Once generated, power is distributed via the power grid.

The ideal method of power generation may be nuclear fusion — also the source of the Sun's energy. In nuclear fusion, atomic nuclei combined together to release bond energy. Unfortunately, no nuclear fusion experiment created by scientists so far has produced more energy than it has consumed.

The Hoover Dam is used to generate hydroelectric power.
The Hoover Dam is used to generate hydroelectric power.
A closeup of a solar panel.
A closeup of a solar panel.

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Discussion Comments


I believe power can be generated by still water also. I have developed an idea which, in my opinion, may work.


I think concentrated solar power is the best solution for power generation. It doesn't harm the environment and it can produce giga watts of power by using just the sun as the driving source of power generation.


My dad has been talking for a long time about hooking turbines up to the main water lines that run into everyone's house. The pressure running though the line would spin the turbine which would generate power to be used by the homeowner.

He has never made a prototype, but he brings up the idea all the time. It makes a certain amount of sense but I'm not sure there is enough pressure in the line to significantly spin the turbine. Still, there may be some potential for an idea like this. There is energy being wasted all the time and hopefully our energy future will incorporate mechanisms to capture it.


@lonelygod - I agree with a lot of what you have to say, but the situation is tricky. I am a strong believer in renewable and green sources of energy, but we have to be realistic about how developed these technologies are at present or will be in the near future. It will take gigantic masses, of wind, hydro, solar and other to replace the energy created by fossil fuels.

Many have suggested that nuclear power is the bridge from dirty energy to clean energy. Obviously nuclear has problems, potentially significant problems, but it does not create greenhouse gasses which contribute to global warming. Nuclear has worked in the past and we have to consider the situation carefully before we write off nuclear power completely.


anon76747 - I have heard of people hooking up generators to stationary bicycles. Obviously these do not generate a ton of power, not enough to power a whole house or building, but they can generate enough electricity to power an appliance and the surplus can be stored in a battery.

I have only seen these used in small villages, usually as part of test programs. I think it is great idea for binging electricity to remote places. There is also a place for these in the developed world though. Imagine someone powering their TV or stereo as they peddled a bicycle for exercise. It is small solutions like these that will power the future.


Do you think that the government should more seriously invest in solar and wind energy after the nuclear disaster that occurred at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011?

I believe that this incident highlighted how careful we have to be when we choose where to generate our power in the future.

In my opinion, power generation is a huge task and safely producing energy for everyone should be a government priority. I worry about all of the nuclear plants currently sitting near active fault lines in California and hope that nothing like what happened in Japan happens over here.


For those who are concerned about the impact of power generation on the environment it is a good idea to look at alternative sources of energy for your home. One of the most popular movements has to be installing solar panels on your roof.

Installing solar panels can be a pricey endeavor when you first start out, but it can allow your family to go completely off the power grid and save you thousands of dollars in the long wrong. Plus if you make extra energy, many areas offer you the chance to sell your additional energy to the government.


A turbine requires a lot of pressure to move and manually it is not possible to generate such a power.


is it possible a turbine blade can be moved by manual power by a human or animal by using mechanical wheels?

Power generation is a big challenge. Is it possible in small towns/villages in self contribution as i mentioned in above?

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