Electricity is made in big places like factories called power stations. There are different sorts but they nearly all work in roughly the same way.

Something that spins is connected to a generator. A generator is like a big motor but back-to-front: instead of putting electricity in to make it spin, you make it spin to get electricity out. The only difference between most power stations is what makes the generator spin.

(Electricity that comes from sunlight - called solar power - is different, and doesn't need to make anything spin.)

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Getting electricity from coal or oil


Coal or oil can be burnt to heat water until it turns to steam. The steam is forced through a turbine (like a giant windmill), which is connected to the generator.

Nuclear power


A few special materials can be made to get very hot all by themselves. This is called nuclear fission. Just like coal or oil, this heat can be used to turn water into steam and drive a turbine connected to a generator.

Nuclear fission can be very dangerous and needs experts to keep it safe. Special systems have to keep the materials under control so that they don't get too hot. If the control systems stop working, the whole power station could explode!

Getting electricity from the wind or waves


Things that already move can usually be made to make something spin. The wind can turn windmills and the bobbing up and down of waves can also be used (although engineers can't agree about the best way of doing it yet).