07 March, 2007

Electric Power Systems and its components

Electric Power Systems, components that transform other types of energy into electrical energy and transmit this energy to a consumer. The production and transmission of electricity is relatively efficient and inexpensive, although unlike other forms of energy, electricity is not easily stored and thus must generally be used as it is being produced.

Components of an Electric Power System

A modern electric power system consists of six main components:
  1. The power station
  2. A set of transformers to raise the generated power to the high voltages used on the transmission lines
  3. The transmission lines
  4. The substations at which the power is stepped down to the voltage on the distribution lines
  5. The distribution lines
  6. the transformers that lower the distribution voltage to the level used by the consumer's equipment.
Power StationThe power station of a power system consists of a prime mover, such as a turbine driven by water, steam, or combustion gases that operate a system of electric motors and generators. Most of the world's electric power is generated in steam plants driven by coal, oil, nuclear energy, or gas. A smaller percentage of the world’s electric power is generated by hydroelectric (waterpower), diesel, and internal-combustion plants.
Transformers
Modern electric power systems use transformers to convert electricity into different voltages. With transformers, each stage of the system can be operated at an appropriate voltage. In a typical system, the generators at the power station deliver a voltage of from 1,000 to 26,000 volts (V). Transformers step this voltage up to values ranging from 138,000 to 765,000 V for the long-distance primary transmission line because higher voltages can be transmitted more efficiently over long distances. At the substation the voltage may be transformed down to levels of 69,000 to 138,000 V for further transfer on the distribution system. Another set of transformers step the voltage down again to a distribution level such as 2,400 or 4,160 V or 15, 27, or 33 kilovolts (kV). Finally the voltage is transformed once again at the distribution transformer near the point of use to 240 or 120 V.
Transmission Lines
The lines of high-voltage transmission systems are usually composed of wires of copper, aluminum, or copper-clad or aluminum-clad steel, which are suspended from tall latticework towers of steel by strings of porcelain insulators. By the use of clad steel wires and high towers, the distance between towers can be increased, and the cost of the transmission line thus reduced. In modern installations with essentially straight paths, high-voltage lines may be built with as few as six towers to the kilometer. In some areas high-voltage lines are suspended from tall wooden poles spaced more closely together. For lower voltage distribution lines, wooden poles are generally used rather than steel towers. In cities and other areas where open lines create a safety hazard or are considered unattractive, insulated underground cables are used for distribution. Some of these cables have a hollow core through which oil circulates under low pressure. The oil provides temporary protection from water damage to the enclosed wires should the cable develop a leak. Pipe-type cables in which three cables are enclosed in a pipe filled with oil under high pressure (14 kg per sq cm/200 psi) are frequently used. These cables are used for transmission of current at voltages as high as 345,000 V (or 345 kV).
Supplementary Equipment
Any electric-distribution system involves a large amount of supplementary equipment to protect the generators, transformers, and the transmission lines themselves. The system often includes devices designed to regulate the voltage or other characteristics of power delivered to consumers.
To protect all elements of a power system from short circuits and overloads, and for normal switching operations, circuit breakers are employed. These breakers are large switches that are activated automatically in the event of a short circuit or other condition that produces a sudden rise of current. Because a current forms across the terminals of the circuit breaker at the moment when the current is interrupted, some large breakers (such as those used to protect a generator or a section of primary transmission line) are immersed in a liquid that is a poor conductor of electricity, such as oil, to quench the current. In large air-type circuit breakers, as well as in oil breakers, magnetic fields are used to break up the current. Small air-circuit breakers are used for protection in shops, factories, and in modern home installations. In residential electric wiring, fuses were once commonly employed for the same purpose. A fuse consists of a piece of alloy with a low melting point, inserted in the circuit, which melts, breaking the circuit if the current rises above a certain value. Most residences now use air-circuit breakers.

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