Electrical Power Distribution - Residential
The following is a condensed version of how electricity is generated and how electricity travels through the various stages of the power-distribution-grid. Ultimately the electricity is safely transmitted to our homes, place of work and/or business.
How do we generate electricity ?
Electricity is produced at Thermal Power Plants. All aspects of producing and the distribution of electricity are important but the first step is to produce heat. The production of heat can come from various fuel sources… such as coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear energy. Coal, oil and natural gas fuel sources are fed into a combustion chamber.
The heat from the combustion chamber is used to boil water to create steam. The random motion of steam under high pressure contains kinetic energy molecules which in-turn are used to spin large steam turbine engines in order to “create energy”. This newly created energy is used to feed into and propel massive synchronous generators that in-turn produce electricity.
What about energy from Windmills ?
If you live in an area where Giant Windmills are being utilized, the energy produced by the windmills goes directly to the synchronous generator (ie: windmill energy bypasses the heat, steam and turbine engine spin process).
Electricity is produced, now what ?
The next stage is the beginning stage of distribution. A short distance away from the Power Plant, the newly produced high voltage electricity will be transmitted to what is known as a “Step Up” Substation. At this substation, there you will see very large capacity transformers where the received voltages are multiplied thus greatly increased (ie: “stepped up”) to much higher voltage values which are then sent to the high voltage overhead transmission towers - thus to be carried to longer distance locations.
Keep-in-mind that from the initial generating power plant and ultimately to the consumer, the high voltage electrical power may flow through several substations.
High Voltage Transmission Towers
If you look around the landscape or while driving, there is no way you can miss these large metal towers which are also known as "Lattice Towers". These High Towers have become the most common method for longer distance transmission of high-voltage power lines. A typical maximum transmission distance is about 300 miles.
Lattice Towers are usually made of galvanized steel. Some upper parts of the towers may also be made of thick aluminum. This for the purpose of avoiding the high towers from becoming too "top heavy".
Next step to reaching the consumer…
As the high tower electricity being transmitted gets closer to the consumer, (residences, businesses, City Hall etc.) the high voltage electricity will need to be sent to another substation. This substation does the reverse of a “step up” substation, therefore it is called a “step down” substation.
At the “step down” substation, the high voltage power is literally reduced to a lower voltage once the power is processed through the on-site large capacity “reverse” transformers. After the power is "stepped down", the power is now closer to being safely distributed to homes and any place of business by means of utility poles or via underground (if the development is newer).
As-you-know, a utility pole is a column or post used to support the transferring overhead electrical power lines plus various other public utility cables and in some cases other electrical related equipment.
What are those drums attached to the side of utility poles ?
They are called drum transformers or pole-mount transformers. They too also process (step down) electricity to the safe levels needed for residential or business purposes. This is the last process of the electrical power distribution prior to the electricity reaching the residential and/or business electrical panels.
Electrical panels are also known as “service breaker panels” or a “breaker box”. It is a metal box that is usually located on an outside wall of a structure. It holds multiple circuit breakers wired to circuits that distribute safe levels of power to electrical outlets throughout your home and/or place of work or business.
Something to think about… Let’s say that electrical power is similar to the air you breathe. You don't really think about it until it is not there.
Nowadays electrical power is constantly "there" for us - thus meeting our everyday needs. Without it, we quickly realize how important it is to our daily life.
Oscar Castillo : Broker Associate (San Diego, CA)
- Residential Brokerage