Friday, October 19, 2012

Transmitting Hydro Power

Once the electricity is produced, it must be delivered to where it is needed -- our homes, schools, offices, factories, etc. Dams are often in remote locations and power must be transmitted over some distance to its users.

Vast networks of transmission lines and facilities are used to bring electricity to us in a form we can use. All the electricity made at a power plant comes first through transformers which raise the voltage so it can travel long distances through power lines. (Voltage is the pressure that forces an electric current through a wire.) At local substations, transformers reduce the voltage so electricity can be divided up and directed throughout an area.

Transformers on poles (or buried underground, in some neighborhoods) further reduce the electric power to the right voltage for appliances and use in the home. When electricity gets to our homes, we buy it by the kilowatt-hour, and a meter measures how much we use.

While hydroelectric power plants are one source of electricity, other sources include power plants that burn fossil fuels or split atoms to create steam which in turn is used to generate power. Gas-turbine, solar, geothermal, and wind-powered systems are other sources. All these power plants may use the same system of transmission lines and stations in an area to bring power to you. By use of this "power grid" electricity can be interchanged among several utility systems to meet varying demands. So the electricity lighting your reading lamp now may be from a hydroelectric power plant, a wind generator, a nuclear facility, or a coal, gas, or oil-fired power plant … or a combination of these.

The area where you live and its energy resources are prime factors in determining what kind of power you use. For example, in Washington State hydroelectric power plants provided approximately 80 percent of the electrical power during 2002. In contrast, in Ohio during the same year, almost 87 percent of the electrical power came from coal-fired power plants due to the area=s ample supply of coal.

Electrical utilities range from large systems serving broad regional areas to small power companies serving individual communities. Most electric utilities are investor-owned (private) power companies. Others are owned by towns, cities, and rural electric associations. Surplus power produced at facilities owned by the Federal Government is marketed to preference power customers (A customer given preference by law in the purchase of federally generated electrical energy which is generally an entity which is nonprofit and publicly financed.) by the Department of Energy through its power marketing administrations.

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