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Your Questions About Solar Energy Generator Companies

Steven asks…

How do the energy companies generate ac power?

and how could I build myself an ac generator, can it be done with photovoltaic cells or would that be dc, Im trying to emphasize using a power inverter powered by solar charged 12 volt batteries, would this work. Any help apprciated.

admin answers:

Various ways, but in the US, mainly coal fired boilers driving turbines, which drive generators.

Some oil fired, some hydroelectric, some wind, some solar, some nuclear.

You can buy a solar array and use that to keep a battery charged, and run an inverter from the battery to generate 120 or 240 VAC. You will need a charge controller between the solar array and the battery, which regulates the charge to the battery.

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Maria asks…

Do power companies store excess energy during times of low demand?

Power companies always shut down generation plants when there is low demand in the power grid, but they always have to maintain a safety margin – perhaps 10% or more power than the grids demand.

Do they STORE this excess/unused power? what happens to unused power.

admin answers:

I read up a bit on this and here what I’ve found:
Like your car’s Alternator there is no “extra” power that is created without demand. Meaning if everyone shuts off their A/C’s in a big city the power plant’s generators simply slow down or shut off.

The safety margin is that they try to preemptively have power “potential” that is on the ready – maybe some turbines spinning, ready to accept load. Given, running a power generation source without load is wasteful but it is acceptable since even the power companies cannot tell when exactly or how much demand will change. They usually make up the needed power from providers while they increase capacity – if they can.

You car’s alternator is good example – once you get up to speed above an idle, it is making more power than the engine, the basic accessories and the battery needs. If you could monitor the drag or draw of the alternator on your car as you turned devices on a off you would see how load makes the alternator put out more power – while spinning at the same rate. Your engine has to absorb the drag of the alternator by increasing fuel consumption or idle speed. Your alternator is simply using regulating the voltage going out and its’ speed determines the amperage potential. At about 2500 rpm your alternator is putting at about 70% of capacity.

The easiest way to see this is turn on all your accessories at idle and you should see the headlights dim a bit. Raise the engine speed and notice that they brighten but only so much.

Overall the generators that power company’s use are far more efficient than the alternator in your car so any waste is simply there to feed our ravenous need for power.

The only utilities that are planning for storage for solar and wind, since the sun sets and winds change. Those methods range from air compression, to molten salt to flywheels and many others.

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