Power to the People!

Sounds like a title song from the 70s, doesn’t it? Electricity is something that happens at the speed of light. But how does it power your coffee maker, X-Box or refrigerator? It may not be something you think of often (maybe just when there is a power outage), but it’s a key component in connecting the power production and delivery to your home or work. Whether the electricity is made from uranium, natural gas, water, coal or the sun, it has to get to the power grid in order to get to you. Here is a good review.

What is electricity? It’s a form of energy produced by electrons moving from atom to atom through a conductor. Let’s walk through the process.

transmission towerWhat is the power grid? The power grid is composed of high voltage power lines that carry all of the electricity to communities, towns and cities – the entire area a utility serves. During this time, the power is converted into manageable voltage levels to be used by your home or business. You might recognize the transmission towers that hold up the high voltage transmission lines. 

substation-43I live near a power plant. Does my electricity come from that plant? This is a misconception. Electricity moves along the path of least resistance. Once the electricity leaves the power plant and goes onto the overhead transmission lines, the electrons spread out along the grid. They don’t care which home they serve, they just want to get there and do their job of providing reliable power 24-hours a day. The power carried over the high voltage lines must be changed to a lower voltage before it reaches your home. This can happen in several stages. First, the electricity is delivered to substations to change the voltage level of the power. The voltage of the electricity is lowered by a transformer and then goes to your neighborhood substation (insert substation photo) where the voltage is lowered once again to fit with the power voltage in your home (110 volts or 220 volts). If the voltage wasn’t lowered before entering your home, it would be like filling a balloon with water through a pressure washer.

Can power companies share electricity? Yes, the electric grids of neighboring utilities are connected so they can support each other during times of widespread power outages caused by hurricanes, tropical storms, and other natural events or equipment related outages. Here is a map of the United States power grid.

Power to Your Home