Ask an Expert: Electricity & Energy Sources

Ask an Expert: Electricity & Energy Sources

Ask an Expert: Electricity & Energy Sources

Followers of Santee Cooper’s Facebook Live “SC Kids” series have heard us reference a few times. On the educational website, children and parents can learn about electrical safety, generation and sustainability, and water conservation through interactive activities and games. The website also provides lesson plans that meet South Carolina curriculum standards for teachers. There is even a section on Santee Cooper’s history for students who are working on South Carolina history projects.

One of my favorite sections on the website that is often overlooked is “Ask an Expert.” Ever wonder why birds can sit on power lines and not be shocked or how many electric eels it would take to power a house? This is your chance to ask energy-related questions and have them answered by an energy industry expert.

Here are my top three favorite questions asked on the “Ask an Expert” page and the answers from our electrical experts:

Q: I once saw a pair of shoes hanging from a power line. Why didn’t the shoes get burned up by the electricity in the line?

A: Shoes hanging on a power line don’t get burned for the same reason that birds standing on a power line don’t get shocked: they don’t give electricity a path to the ground, so electricity stays in the line and does not go through them. But if the shoes were to touch a power line and a power pole at the same time, they would provide a path to the ground and would get blasted with electric current. It wouldn’t be pretty!

By the way, if you ever see someone throwing shoes up onto a line, tell them to stop! The shoes can damage the power line, or someone trying to get the shoes down could be seriously shocked or even killed.

Q: Is it true that cars could someday run on cow manure?

A: Yes! Manure can be made into a gas containing methane. (Methane is the same energy-rich gas found in natural gas.) Certain types of bacteria emit this gas as they consume manure collected in special air-free tanks. The mixture of gases produced in this way, called biogas, can then be used in some modified car engines instead of gasoline, or burned in a boiler to generate heat or electricity.

Q: Why didn’t Ben Franklin get hurt when he tied a metal key to a kite string and flew the kite in a thunderstorm?

A: Ben Franklin’s famous key did give off an electric spark. But lucky for Franklin, the kite was just drawing small electrical charges from the air. If the kite had been struck by lightning, Franklin could have been killed!

Do you have your own questions about electricity? Get your answers from!

Author Anna Strickland

Anna Strickland

Considering herself a life-long learner, Anna is a former high school teacher who joined the Educational Programs department in 2016 at Santee Cooper. She is a graduate of Campbell University where she majored in history and education. Also, she earned a master’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Anna is passionate about education and community volunteerism. She serves as the Chair of SC Department of Commerce’s Waccamaw Regional Workforce Advisory Board and is a member of Coastal Carolina University’s Women in Philanthropy and Leadership.