How Power Plants Work

Ever wonder how all of your iPhones, Kindles, Xboxes, and laptops get their power? No? Well we are going to tell you anyway, sassy pants.

LanguageEnglish Language
ThemesTechnology and Modernization

Transcript

00:25

Okay, well first off... Homer works at a nuclear power plant. Those are... a bit scary, yeah.

00:35

Although... even nuclear power plants are much safer than most people think, and rarely

00:39

result in the death, disfigurement or dismemberment of local citizens.

00:44

Unless this guy is at the helm. Or this guy. Chernobyl.

00:48

So... if most power plants aren't those giant cylindrical structures with the atomic symbols on them...

00:53

what do they look like?

00:55

Well... have you ever passed by one of those... fields of giant pinwheels?

01:02

They're not just there for decoration... or to curb the area's pigeon population.

01:08

They are wind turbines, and they are there to produce energy.

01:11

They didn't always look that way, however.

01:17

The AC-generating power plants

01:19

engineered by Nikola Tesla a hundred years ago...

01:29

They were the early versions of our modern plants...

01:31

and they looked like this.

01:33

Not the greatest for those who are trying to cut down on secondhand smoke.

01:45

First, a ton of heat is produced. Like... enough to make the devil perspire.

01:52

The heat is created by burning coal, natural gas or oil... or by splitting a few atoms.

02:00

The heat is then used to boil water to make steam...

02:02

so yeah, it's kind of a giant, underground tea kettle.

02:05

Earl Grey, anyone? Herbal?

02:08

The steam turns a turbine, which moves a huge

02:11

coil of wires around a magnetized center.

02:13

And boom... we've got electricity. Of course... that electricity doesn't do us

02:17

any good unless we can access it...

02:20

...so as the final step in the process, the electricity is sent through a giant transformer...

02:24

not the walking big rig kind...

02:27

...which bumps up the voltage before sending it out into the world.

02:34

Thousands of degrees of heat.  

02:35

Turbines the size of tall buildings.  

02:37

Hundreds of miles of electric lines.  

02:40

All so you can play World of Warcraft for five hours straight.

02:46

You might want to send science a "thank you" card.