Energy 101: Fuel sources, generation & delivery
Do you enjoy the benefits electricity brings to your home or business? The truth is—because electricity has become such a stable, reliable commodity—we rarely think about how this essential power makes its way to us.
Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of an educational series on the electric utility industry.
The path of electricity has several components from where it is generated to the point it reaches the end consumer, whether that is a home, business or farming operation. While making its journey to you, electricity moves in a complex, interconnected network called the power grid. This network is comprised of substations, transformers and powerlines and connects producers and consumers. The path of electricity travels through several phases before arriving at your home.
- Electricity is generated at generation plants that often use a diverse mix of traditional and renewable fuels. Baseload generation—which generate power at a constant rate—typically use coal and/or natural gas. These plants are dispatched as needed to meet consumer load.
- Hydroelectric power is a renewable baseload power source of electric generation created by flowing water.
- Wind power is the conversion of kinetic energy present in wind motion to produce electricity.
- Solar power is energy absorbed from photons in sunlight and converted into heat or electricity.
- High-voltage transmission lines carry electricity over long distances. Voltage for long-distance transmission can be in the range of 345,000 volts or higher.
- Transformers at substations reduce (step down) voltage to levels that are suitable for delivery over distribution lines.
- Local electric cooperatives own distribution powerlines that carry electricity to homes and businesses.
- Before it enters your home, electricity is stepped down in voltage by transformers on powerlines that belong to your local electric cooperative.