Electricity Generation, Transmission, & Distribution To The End User
Electricity is one of the most essential aspects of our lives today. We use it on a daily basis from the time we wake up from the soothing sounds of our alarm clocks, to the time we fall asleep by the comforting glow of the television. But do we ever think about how we actually obtain this valuable resource? Several stages are necessary before we are able to effortlessly illuminate our homes or offices. The basic phases include generation, transmission, and distribution. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Simply put, electricity generation is the process of producing electric power from other types of energy. Typically, this takes place at a power plant where a generator converts mechanical power into electrical power. A large amount of power plants across our country burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas to create electricity. Some use nuclear power and some are beginning to take advantage of cleaner renewable resources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.
Once electricity is generated, it is then sent to electrical substations through transmission lines. Here, transformers may be used to alter the voltage levels between high transmission voltages and lower distribution voltages. Electric power may even travel through multiple substations at various voltage levels. When transmission lines are interconnected, they become a network or a power grid. An Independent System Operator (ISO) is organized to coordinate, control, and monitor these networks. As of 2012, there are ten ISOs operating in North America:
• Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO)
• California ISO (CAISO)
• Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)
• Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO)
• New Brunswick System Operator (NBSO)
• New England Independent System Operator (ISO-NE)
• New York Independent System Operator (NYISO)
• Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)
• PJM Interconnection (PJM)
• Southwest Power Pool (SPP)
Distribution is the final stage in the process of delivering electricity to the end users. Carrying power from the transmission system to consumers uses several components including power lines, pole-mounted transformers, distribution lines, and meters.
In some states, customers have the option to choose who generates their power, often being cheaper than what the utility can provide. Many regions of the United States are becoming deregulated, which allows competition between these suppliers. If you live in one of these areas, consider working with an energy consultant to find the best rate available for your home or business.
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