Unit 2A–C –“ Generation of Electricity”

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Unit 2A–C lays the foundation for the overall visitor experience by presenting the basic principles of energy and electricity. Three primary topics are addressed. The first, “What is energy?” explains that energy is the ability to do work and describes different forms (mechanical, chemical, thermal, etc.), while reiterating the fact that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

The second topic presents Electricity 101, an introduction to atoms and how the movement of electrons causes an electrical current. A manual interactive invites visitors to supply the “work” by turning a hand crank that illuminates light bulbs overhead, physically demonstrating how electricity is generated on a small scale. Visitors can feel the difference in the amount of energy needed to light an incandescent bulb, a CFL and an LED. Detailed graphics surrounding the interactive offer a view inside the generator and show how to power the generator.

The third topic applies information presented to the concept of transmission on a scale vast enough to power a country such as the United States. Visitors are introduced to the interconnected grid of high-voltage transmission lines that transport electricity from the point of generation to population centers throughout the country. Audiences learn how electricity is pooled in the grid and about challenges involving efficiency and storage.

Another key aspect presented by this unit is regulation. Visitors will glean that electric power generation is one of the most highly regulated industries in the U.S. Illustrations, maps, text and graphics illustrate who has regulatory oversight, how ISOs / RTOs play a significant role in regional distribution, and the impact of traditional electric utilities and nonutility power producers.

Target Audience

Best suited for intended audience:

  • School students in grades 6 through 12
  • General adult audience
  • Specialists in energy industry
  • Government dignitaries and representatives

As this unit emphasizes the basic principles of energy and electricity, it could also appeal to a slightly younger age group with an interest in science (grades 3 through 5) that might enjoy turning the hand crank interactive to produce electricity.

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