Electricity Explained: How is electrical power distributed?

In this series, we're going to explore the role of the electrical infrastructure and how electrical contractors play a vital role in taming and harnessing this immense power. Electricity is produced in large power plants across America. It is then transported through the Grid, which is a sophisticated network of transformers, power cables and substations. The Grid is a network that connects electricity providers and consumers. For commercial and reliability reasons, most local grids are unified, resulting in larger, more dependable networks that improve energy supply coordination and planning. This assures that even if electricity consumption rises due to excessive heat or cold, the power grid will remain operational. Electrical professionals use an intimate knowledge of how electricity works in order to steamline how we all work with it.

Electric power lines

Electric distribution network

The electrical distribution network consists of millions of miles of low voltage power lines, along with thousands of miles of high-voltage power lines. Numerous distribution transformers connect thousands of power plants to hundreds of millions of electricity customers across the country, making up the entire electricity grid of the United States.

People purchase power from a variety of sources. Some electric utilities produce all of the electricity they sell, relying only on their own power plants. Other utilities purchase electricity directly from power suppliers, independent producers, or from the wholesale market of a regional organization.

The electrical industry's retail structure differs from region to region. There are a number of places where an individual or a whole city might purchase its electricity:

  • Energy marketers
  • An electric cooperative owned by its members
  • A not-for-profit municipal electric utility
  • A private, for-profit electric utility controlled by investors (commonly referred to as an investor-owned utility)

How electricity is distributed

Delivering power is a complicated operation. Electricity is generated in power plants and delivered to clients via transmission and distribution lines. High-voltage transmission lines, such as those that run between towering metal towers, transport energy over vast distances to satisfy the needs of customers.

Long-distance electrical transmission is more efficient and less expensive with higher voltage electricity. In homes and businesses, lower voltage power is safer to use. Substation transformers increase (step up) or decrease (step down) voltages to accommodate the various phases of the journey from the power plant to distribution lines that transport electricity to homes and businesses.

How power is distributed

The last few miles from transmission or sub-transmission to consumers are carried via distribution networks. In distribution networks, power is transported by wires on poles or, in many metropolitan areas, underground. The voltage level and topology of distribution networks distinguish them from transmission networks.

In distribution networks, lower voltages are employed since they require less clearance. Lines with a voltage of up to 35 kV are usually considered part of the distribution network. Distribution substations connect distribution networks to transmission or sub-transmission networks. Transformers are used in distribution substations to step voltage down to the primary distribution level.

The electrical systems in the United States are now linked.

The electricity grid's stability necessitates the continual supply of electricity to meet demand, which necessitates the cooperation of all entities that control various system components. For reliability and commercial interests, local power grids are joined to build bigger networks. The United States' power system in the Lower 48 states is made up of three main interconnections that function independently of one another and have limited electrical exchanges between them.

Electrical contractors bring together a variety of hardware and software to control the environments of businesses and homes across the nation. As with the grid's infrastructure, hardware needs to be carefully selected to maintain safety and efficiency as well as cost-effectiveness.

How is electrical energy delivered to you?

The electric power grid's evolution has occurred gradually over the past hundred or so years. At the turn of the century, there were over 4,000 separate electric utilities operating in the United States.

Utilities began to connect their transmission lines as demand for power increased, particularly after the war in the 1940’s. These linkages allowed utilities to split the expense of developing huge, typically jointly-owned electricity producing units to meet their combined demand at the lowest possible price.

Interconnection also lowered the amount of additional producing capacity that each utility needed to keep on hand to assure dependable service during peak demand periods. In the United States, three enormous, interconnected networks have developed over time.

  1. Texas uses the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)
  2. From the Rocky Mountains to the west, the Western Interconnection provides power to the people.
  3. To the East of the Rockies and for a portion of the Texas Panhandle, The Eastern Interconnection is responsible.

How this energy is manipulated and used efficiently is the responsibility of the electrical engineers and electrical contractors who design, build and maintain a business or home's electrical infrastructure.

As an electrical supplier and equipment distributor, ATEK Distribution works with these professionals to provide them with the highest quality pieces that are chose to work optimally within a building's working environment. With a product line that features the biggest names in electrical equipment and supplies, ATEK can get contractors the equipment they need, on time and on budget so that clients stay happy. Order online or by phone. We're here to partner with you to get you what you need to get the job done right.