What happens to the electricity between the power plant and my home?
Between the point of generation to your home, electricity travels through different systems which optimize losses, in order to ultimately improve delivery costs.
Transmission & distribution simply explained
Power travels from power sources to different types of electricity customers. The whole process is called electricity delivery. During this process, the electricity goes through transmission lines and distribution lines. as well as transformer substations to link the lines between themselves.
Transmission lines are used for interstate connections, for example.
Different sources mean different modes of transportation
For large power generating facilities, the electricity produced is immediately sent through a step-up transformer and into the transmission network. There facilities include:
- Nuclear power plants
- Coal, petroleum or natural gas power plants
- Large wind farms
- Utility scale solar power plants
- Hydroelectric plants
For smaller facilities, the electricity may be put on the distribution network, either to be then sent towards the transmission grid if needed, or directly consumed by local customers. These generation facilities include:
- Small wind turbines
- Residential rooftop solar panels
- Very small hydroelectric generation (a traditional water mill converted into a small residential hydroelectric plant)
The reason why transmission lines are more appropriate for large generation facilities is that they are used for transporting large amounts of electricity through long distances. They therefore have the following characteristics:
- High voltage
- High maintenance
Distribution lines are used for local electricity delivery.
Distribution lines are low voltage lines which are used to local transportation of electricity. The lines are smaller, and cover shorter distances. They therefore have the following features:
- Low voltage
- Low maintenance