Electrical Grid Webquest

  • The Electrical Grid.

    To see the pictures open the document at the bottom of the page.

    Answer the following fill-ins from information gathered on the following website:

    Electrical Grid from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    An ___(1)____ is an interconnected network for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers. It consists of three main components:

    1) ____(2)____ that produce electricity from combustible fuels (coal, natural gas, biomass) or non-combustible fuels (wind, solar, nuclear, hydro power);

    2) ____(3)____ that carry electricity from power plants to demand centers; and

    3) ____(4)____ that reduce voltage so distribution lines carry power for final delivery.

    In the ____(5)____, electrical grid is a term used for an electricity network which includes the following three distinct operations:

    1. ____(6)____ - Generating plants are usually located near a source of water, and away from heavily populated areas. They are usually quite large in order to take advantage of the economies of scale. The electric power which is generated is stepped up to a higher voltage-at which it connects to the transmission network.
    2. ____(7)____ - The transmission network will move (wheel) the power long distances-often across state lines, and sometimes across international boundaries until it reaches its wholesale customer (usually the company that owns the local distribution network).
    3. ____(8)____ - Upon arrival at the substation, the power will be stepped down in voltage—from a transmission level voltage to a distribution level voltage. As it exits the substation, it enters the distribution wiring. Finally, upon arrival at the service location, the power is stepped down again from the distribution voltage to the required service voltage(s).

    Answer the following fill-ins from information gathered on the following website:

    How Power Grids Work from How Stuff Works

    Electrical power is a little bit like the air you breathe: You don't really think about it until it is missing. ____(9)____ is just "there," meeting your every need, constantly.

    It's only during a ____(10)____, when you walk into a dark room and instinctively hit the useless light switch, that you realize how important power is in your daily life.

    Power travels from the power plant to your house through an amazing system called the ____(11)____.

    The grid is quite public -- if you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are it is right out in the open for all to see. It is so public, in fact, that you probably don't even notice it anymore. Your brain likely ignores all of the ____(12)____ because it has seen them so often.

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    The Power Plant

    Electrical power starts at the power plant. In almost all cases, the power plant consists of a ____(13)____. Something has to spin that generator -- it might be a water wheel in a ____(14)____, a large diesel engine or a ____(15)____. But in most cases, the thing spinning the generator is a ____(16)____. The steam might be created by burning ____(17)____, oil or natural gas. Or the steam may come from a ____(18)____.

    A breakdown of the major power plants in the United States, by type Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy

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    The Power Plant: Alternating Current­

    ____(19)____ is what you have in your house. You generally talk about household electrical service as single-phase, 120-volt AC service. If you use an ____(20)____ and look at the power found at a normal wall-plate outlet in your house, what you will find is that the power at the wall plate looks like a ____(21)____, and that wave oscillates between -170 volts and 170 volts (the peaks are indeed at 170 volts; it is the effective (rms) voltage that is 120 volts). The rate of oscillation for the sine wave is 60 ____(22)____. Oscillating power like this is generally referred to as AC, or ____(23)____. The alternative to AC is DC, or ____(24)____. ____(25)____ produce DC: A steady stream of electrons flows in one direction only, from the negative to the positive terminal of the battery.

    AC has at least three advantages over DC in a ____(26)____ grid:

    1. Large ____(27)____ happen to generate AC naturally, so ____(28)____to DC would involve an extra step.
    2. ____(29)____ must have ____(30)____ current to operate, and we will see that the power distribution grid depends on transformers.
    3. It is easy to convert AC to DC but ____(31)____to convert DC to AC, so if you were going to pick one or the other AC would be the better choice.

    The power plant, therefore, produces AC. On the next page, you'll learn about the AC power produced at the power plant. Most notably, it is produced in three phases.

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    The Power Plant: Three-phase Power

    The power plant produces three different phases of AC power simultaneously, and the three phases are offset ____(32)____from each other. There are four wires coming out of every power plant: the ____(33)____ plus a neutral or ____(34)____ common to all three. If you were to look at the three phases on a graph, they would look like this [above picture] relative to ground:

    There is nothing magical about three-phase power. It is simply three single phases synchronized and offset by 120 degrees.

    Why three phases? Why not one or two or four? In 1-phase and 2-phase power, there are 120 moments per second when a sine wave is crossing zero volts. In 3-phase power, at any given moment one of the three phases is nearing a ____(35)____. High-power 3-phase motors (used in industrial applications) and things like 3-phase welding equipment therefore have even power output. Four phases would not significantly ____(36)____ things but would add a fourth wire, so 3-phase is the natural settling point.

    And what about this "ground," as mentioned above? The power company essentially uses the ____(37)____ as one of the wires in the power system. The earth is a pretty good ____(38)____ and it is huge, so it makes a good return path for ____(39)____. (Car manufacturers do something similar; they use the ____(40)____ of the car as one of the wires in the car's electrical system and attach the ____(41)____ pole of the battery to the car's body.) "Ground" in the power distribution grid is literally "____(42)____" that's all around you when you are walking outside. It is the dirt, rocks, groundwater, etc., of the earth.

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    A typical substation at a power plant

    Transmission Substation

    The three-phase power leaves the generator and enters a ____(43)____ at the power plant. This substation uses large transformers to convert the generator's ____(44)____ (which is at the thousands of volts level) up to extremely high voltages for long-distance transmission on the transmission grid.

    You can see at the back several three-wire towers leaving the substation. Typical voltages for long distance transmission are in the range of 155,000 to 765,000 volts in order to ____(45)____ line losses. A typical maximum transmission distance is about ____(46)____miles (483 km). High-voltage transmission lines are quite obvious when you see them. They are normally made of huge ____(47)____ like this:

    All power towers like this have three wires for the three phases. Many towers, like the ones shown above, have extra ____(48)____running along the tops of the towers. These are ground wires and are there primarily in an attempt to attract ____(49)____.

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    A typical small substation

    The Distribution Grid

    For power to be useful in a home or business, it comes off the transmission grid and is ____(50)____ to the distribution grid. This may happen in several phases. The place where the conversion from "transmission" to "distribution" occurs is in a ____(51)____. A power substation typically does two or three things:

    • It has ____(52)____ that step transmission voltages (in the tens or hundreds of thousands of volts range) down to distribution voltages (typically less than 10,000 volts).
    • It has a "____(53)____" that can split the distribution power off in multiple directions.
    • It often has ____(54)____ and switches so that the substation can be ____(55)____ from the transmission grid or separate distribution lines can be disconnected from the substation when necessary.

    The box in the foreground is a large transformer. To its left are the incoming power from the transmission grid and a set of switches for the incoming power. Toward the right is a distribution bus plus three voltage regulators.

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    Distribution Bus

    The power goes from the transformer to the distribution bus:

    In this case, the bus distributes power to two separate sets of ____(56)____ at two different voltages. The smaller transformers attached to the bus are stepping the power ____(57)____ to standard line voltage (usually 7,200 volts) for one set of lines, while power leaves in the other direction at the ____(58)____ of the main transformer. The power leaves this substation in two sets of three wires, each headed down the road in a different direction:


    The wires between these two poles are "guy wires" for support. They carry no current.

    The next time you are driving down the road, you can look at the power lines in a completely different light. In the typical scene pictured above, the three wires at the top of the poles are the three wires for the ____(59)____ power. The fourth wire lower on the poles is the ground wire. In some cases there will be additional wires, typically ____(60)____ or cable TV lines riding on the same ____(61)____.

    As mentioned above, this particular substation produces two different voltages. The wires at the higher voltage need to be ____(62)____ again, which will often happen at another substation or in small transformers somewhere down the line. For example, you will often see a large green box (perhaps 6 feet/1.8 meters on a side) near the entrance to a subdivision. It is performing the step-down function for the ____(63)____.

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    A typical regulator bank

    Regulator Bank

    You will also find regulator banks located along the line, either underground or in the air. They regulate the voltage on the line to prevent ____(64)____ and overvoltage conditions.

    Up toward the top are three switches that allow this ____(65)____ to be disconnected for maintenance when necessary:


    At this point, we have typical line voltage at something like 7,200 volts running through the neighborhood on three wires (with a fourth ground wire lower on the pole):



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    At the House

    And finally we are down to the wire that brings power to your house! Past a typical house runs a set of poles with one phase of power (at 7,200 volts) and a ____(66)____ (although sometimes there will be two or three phases on the pole, depending on where the house is located in the distribution grid). At each house, there is a ____(67)____ attached to the pole, like this[picture above on right]:

    In many suburban neighborhoods, the distribution lines are ____(68)____ and there are green transformer boxes at every house or two.

    The transformer's job is to reduce the 7,200 volts down to the ____(69)____ that makes up normal household electrical service. Let's look at this pole one more time, from the bottom, to see what is going on:


    There are two things to notice in this picture:

    • There is a bare wire running down the pole. This is a ____(70)____. Every utility pole on the planet has one. If you ever watch the power company install a new pole, you will see that the end of that bare wire is stapled in a coil to the base of the pole and therefore is in direct contact with the earth, running 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 m) underground. It is a good, solid ground connection. If you examine a pole carefully, you will see that the ground wire running between poles (and often the guy wires) are attached to this direct connection to ground.
    • There are two wires running out of the transformer and three wires running to the house. The two from the transformer are insulated, and the third one is bare. The bare wire is the ground wire. The two insulated wires each carry 120 volts, but they are 180 degrees out of phase so the difference between them is 240 volts. This arrangement allows a homeowner to use both 120-volt and 240-volt appliances. The transformer is wired in this sort of configuration:

    The 240 volts enters your house through a typical watt-hour meter like this one:




    The meter lets the power company charge you for putting up all of these wires.




    Section 1 Electrical Grid from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    1)Electrical Grid; 2) Generating plants; 3)Transmission lines; 4) Transformers; 5) power industry; 6) Electricity generation; 7) Electric power transmission; 8) Electricity distribution

    Section 2 How Power Grids Work from How Stuff Works

    9) Power; 10) power failure; 11) power distribution grid; 12) power lines; 13) spinning electrical generator; 14) hydroelectric dam; 15) gas turbine; 16) steam turbine; 17) coal; 18) nuclear reactor; 19) Single-phase power; 20) oscilloscope; 21) sine wave; 22) cycles per second; 23) alternating current; 24) direct current; 25) Batteries; 26) power distribution; 27) electrical generators; 28) conversion; 29) Transformers; 30) alternating; 31) expensive; 32) 120 degrees; 33) three phases; 34) ground; 35) peak; 36) improve; 37) earth; 38) conductor; 39) electrons; 40) metal body; 41) negative; 42) the ground; 43) transmission substation; 44) voltage; 45) reduce; 46) 300; 47) steel towers; 48) wires; 49) lightning; 50) stepped-down; 51) power substation; 52) transformers; 53) bus; 54) circuit breakers; 55) disconnected; 56) distribution lines; 57) down; 58) higher voltage; 59) 3-phase; 60) phone; 61) poles; 62) stepped down; 63) subdivision; 64) undervoltage; 65) regulator bank; 66) ground wire; 67) transformer drum; 68) underground; 69) 240 volts; 70) grounding wire





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