Environmental Impacts of Electricity

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Electricity: A Powerful Force with Environmental Consequences

Electricity is an invisible force that occurs naturally and can only be seen through natural occurrence like lightning or felt through a shock when in contact with a meal attached to electricity. The invention of electricity has greatly helped human beings in their daily activities. However, it has also resulted in harm to the environment and increased health risks to people. The type and magnitude of environmental impact vary due to different factors such as the geographical location or the type of technology used. In order to minimize these impacts, we should understand the current and possible environmental impacts associated while generating electricity. Therefore, this paper will capture various impacts of harnessing the electric power and also talk about the rivalry among the inventors who played a role.

Impacts of Harnessing Electric Power

Power companies use different ways when creating electricity, but not all ways impact the environment in the same way. Harnessing power from the wind is said to be the cleanest and suitable way of creating electricity since it does produce toxic pollutants or leads to global warming emissions. The advantages of using wind are that it is abundant, affordable and also inexhaustible thus making it a feasible and large-scale option to use as compared to fossil fuels. Although it is recommended as the most suitable way of generating electricity, it also has some environmental impacts such as turbines occupying large pieces of land and also birds and bats dying from the collision with the turbines.

Solar Power and its Environmental Impacts

Solar power is another way of harnessing electric power, similar to wind power the sun provides a marvelous resource for creating clean and suitable electricity. However, solar power has various environmental impacts associated with it, they include water use, land use, and habitat loss and it also uses hazardous materials in its manufacturing. However, the type of impacts may differ depending on the technology used and the scale of the system. We can also harness electric power using geothermal energy. Geothermal energy has various impacts which include letting lose greenhouse gasses during extraction which is done underneath earth surface, although they are comparatively fewer than those produced by fossil fuels (Dickmann, 21). Another possible impact is that it can cause earthquakes since they use hydraulic fracturing to extract geothermal energy.

Hydroelectricity and its Environmental Consequences

Electric power can be created by water through hydroelectricity which comes from dams. Therefore these dams may cause environmental impacts such as interrupting the normal flow of water and also disturbs the aquatic system. Another impact is that dams can activate earthquakes. In addition, the power of tides can disturb the aquatic system. Fossil fuels can also create electric power, for instance, fossil fuels like natural gas or coal are burnt and release energy (Dickmann, 38). However, burning of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases which cause an increase in atmospheric temperature. It also produces soot or black carbon. Carbon particles created through the incomplete burning of hydrocarbons is what is referred to as soot and it causes global warming. An increase of black cotton causes an increase in atmospheric temperatures since carbon absorbs sunlight instead of reflecting it back.

Competition Among the Inventors of Electric Power

During the 19th century, inventors and scientist Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla became the key players in the road to electricity use. However, they clashed over which electricity system between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) would become standard. Since Tesla was well educated he conceptualized the ideas in his mind before coming up with an invention. But his rival Edison was not equipped with such training so he depended on experimentation in order to perfect his invention. During the fight, Edison advocated for the direct current system where the flow of electricity is steady and in one direction whereas Tesla and Westinghouse supported alternating current system where flows of electricity interchanges constantly.

Among the three inventors, Edison was the most famous visionary man, he developed the first realistic light bulb in the world in the 1870s, after that he started construction a system which can produce and distribute electricity so that his invention could be used by business and also at home. Edison then started his first power plant in America in1882. After two years Nikola who was an engineer from Serbia came to America and started working for Edison. He assisted him in improving the DC generators at the same time he tried to get attention from his boss concerning AC motor which he was working on (Jonnes, 33). But his dreams were shattered when a scientist at Menlo Park who also advocated for DC technology asserted that AC will not succeed. By 1885, Tesla quitted his job and after some years he got the official documents to launch his AC technology. However, in 1888 he decided to sell his permit to his entrepreneur George Westinghouse who was a competitor of Edison.

Due to this challenge, Edison felt threatened since there was a high probability that AC would be distributed all over the world easily than DC. He, therefore, came up with a plan to campaign against AC and induce people that it was dangerous. In his campaign, he electrocuted animals in public with AC in order to demonstrate how dangerous it was. He also recommended the use of alternating current to electrocuted death sentence prisoners as the fastest and most deadly option. This was influenced by the fact that he opposes capital punishment (Jonnes, 45). As a result, William Kemmler, who was a convicted murderer, became the first human being to be electrocuted using the electric chair.

Unfortunately, Edison did not succeed in his efforts to harm the reputation of AC. Therefore, Westinghouse was given the contract to provide electricity in Chicago defeating his competitor General Electric, which was created through the union of Edison’s company. Westinghouse also got a contract from a hydro-electric power plant in Niagara Falls in which he constructed AC generators. A few years later, the plant began supplying electricity in New York. The milestone marked the end of the war thus AC became the leading electric power industry.


Since Tesla was the inventor of AC technology, he played a major role in the electric power used all around the world. He also worked thoroughly on his dream of providing electric power without using wires. In addition, his company succeeded in developing electromagnetic force and resonance for power. However, Edison still remained active in shaping the world with his inventions. His invention of a phonograph was able to record voices and even replays them. His design of a light bulb made a light that would stay lit for hours instead of turning off immediately, thus making the bulb more useful and affordable.

Work Cited

Dickmann, Nancy. Energy from Water: Hydroelectric, Tidal, and Wave Power. 2016.

Jonnes, Jill. Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. Random House, 2003. Open WorldCat, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=743579.

November 13, 2023




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