By definition, electricity is a form of energy resulting from the existence of charged particles (such as electrons or protons). This can occur statically as an accumulation of charge or dynamically as a current. It is a secondary energy source produced by converting primary sources of energy such as coal, natural gas, nuclear power, solar power and wind energy into electrical power. Nuclear power is a tertiary source, where it is converted to heat, then into electricity.
But it’s much more than just that. Much like water, air and food, electricity is a staple of daily life. For the past 100 years or so, electricity has heated and cooled homes and food, powered televisions and devices and kept the lights on in our homes and businesses. Before the power of electricity was harnessed, humans relied on iceboxes, wood and coal-burning stoves, and whale oil or kerosene lamps to do the jobs electricity does today.
From Generation to End Use
So how does electricity get from the primary energy source to the outlets in your home or business? There are four basic steps in the process.
Generation – Electricity is generated in different types of power plants by burning fossil fuels, collecting wind, solar or water energy, or from nuclear reactions.
Transmission – Once generated, the power is converted to a very high voltage and travels along miles of power lines, through substations and sensors from the power plants to neighborhoods.
Distribution – Electricity is then converted to a lower voltage via a step-down transformer where it can be safely distributed to homes and businesses.
End Use – After it reaches the desired destination, electricity can be used to power devices and all the things we use it for today.
Each complex part of generating electricity and getting it to your home, from power plants to power lines to wires, sensors and poles, together make up the power grid. The grid requires a delicate and equal balance of supply and demand. Thus, when demand for electricity is at its peak, the same amount of supply must be available. Today our electricity needs are more sophisticated and the strain on the grid is greater than ever.
The current grid is being stretched to capacity. The smart grid of the future is being built from digital technology and as today’s grid continues to be upgraded, the evolution of the smart grid is happening one piece at a time. The controls, computers, power lines, new technologies and equipment will take some time to come together and will most likely take the next decade or so to complete. Once it has had the opportunity to mature, the impact the smart grid will have on our lives and the way we work, play, and learn is expected to be much like the introduction of the internet. The possibilities are endless. And we at AEP Energy look forward to powering a brighter future together with you.
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