ELECTRICITY GENERATION, TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION: A CASE STUDY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

BY

UGONNA CHIDERA MBAEZUE. MSc. POWER PLANT TECHNOLOGIES.
REGISTRATION NUMBER: 201189490

price capping on electricity prices. will consume 4. coal fired power plants burn coal to make steam. which turns a turbine. rank among the highest in the world.085. constituting close to 24% of energy sources. This has led to wide spread deregulation of the power sector in various countries. According to data released by the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).5 million. of which the United States of America with its population of 304. coal has always been a major source of energy for centuries. These policies include incentives to encourage further private investments. Cyclone furnaces: About 738 coal fired power plants are currently in operation in the USA. Another major source of energy in the USA is Natural gas. power generation has become a pressing issue. proven reserves of natural gas for the year 2009 stood at about 272. to complement the older plants already in existence. this can be attributed both to the abundant deposits of coal found in the US.509 million short tons (a short ton approx. According to a report by the IEA for the year 2008. The processes involved.000lbs or 907. from 26 States. circulate around the method of feeding the coal into the furnace.3 million short tons of coal. and also to the relatively low cost of coal. At a later published journal. etc.155. coal mines in the USA produced about 1. This in itself has not come without its own problems such as cost per kilowatt of electricity. placing it at the top with 21.5% of total world produced. for electricity generation. This is due in part to the inability of the various governments to fund the construction and maintenance of power generation plants. These include: a.92 TWh of it.344 TWh of electricity according to the same data.248GWh of the estimated electricity. 2. the United States estimated to produce 4. In the USA. Coal was the major source of energy generation.In the world today. it was estimated that the world would consume 18. where deposits. and 93% of this total was used to produce 4 trillion kWh of electricity. In the year 2010 alone. To produce electricity. government creates policies aimed at regulating the power generation industry. the USA was only able to produce 4119. taking up to 45% of the total energy sources used. In that same year. and in the process produces electricity.603TWh of electricity. as economic growth rises.18474kg. Pulverised coal system: b. Diagram showing coal deposits in the US - In that year. Therefore to protect itself and also the masses.) and . making it the highest consumer for that year.

This value has been quite steady for a couple of years. whereby atoms of a commonly used element Uranium-235 are bombarded by neutrons. The energy that the plants and animals originally obtained from the sun is stored in the form of carbon in natural gas. The Renewables: In the USA. a process called fission is employed. huge amounts of intense heat is produced. moisture. A total figure of electricity generation from this sector stands at about 10%. A cleaner newer technology called the Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT). it is then treated to remove impurities such as hydrogen sulfide. used to boil water to produce steam. Uranium-235 is commonly used.renewable fossil fuel formed when layers of buried plants and animals are exposed to intense heat and pressure over years. hydrocarbons etc. splitting them and in the process. a form of fuel is burnt to produce heat. Production process begins with the extraction of natural gas. municipal & state utilities and rural electric co-operatives all play a role in generation. but sets up commissions to oversee the electricity industry. They generated a total of 807 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). These programs. In the case of a nuclear power plant.approximately 21 billion cubic feet is harvested yearly from this source. a mix of private utilities. Natural gas is a non. which involves burning the gas in a combustion turbine and using the hot combustion turbine to make steam to drive a steam turbine is currently being used by most plants. rising to 65 plants with 104 operating nuclear reactors in the year 2010. This heat is then used to produce steam from boiling water. The government also offers incentives to companies that participate in this program. the number has grown steadily. petroleum is used more for transportation and house heating than it is used for electricity generation. it is transported to the power plants. or about 20% of the Nation's electricity for the year 2010. due to the immense deregulation that has occurred in the electricity sector. as its atoms are easily split and it is relatively rare in nature. in the USA. CO2. since the late 80’s. This method has been found to increase efficiency and also lower carbon emission. by generating a portion of their electricity from them. the USA follows a very complex format. and ends with its combustion in boilers and turbines to generate electricity. Third ranked in electricity generation source is Nuclear energy accounting for about one-fifths of total electricity generation. which is then used by a steam turbine to generate electricity. In the transmission & distribution of generated electricity. vary from state to state. Due to this deregulation. This is because. The Department of Energy handles all energy issues. The first nuclear plant in the USA was commissioned in 1957 and since then. One of such is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The FERC has since gone on to set up the ISO’s (Independent Systems Operators) to oversee transmission grids in single US states and RTO’s (Regional Transmission Organisation) to oversee transmission grids over US regions. finally. transmission and distribution of electricity. depending on the abundance of each renewable in that state. the government (state) recently introduced a program called Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to encourage independent electricity generation companies to focus on renewables available in the US. In most power plants. These transmission grids are primarily divided into 3 groups: . Natural gas plants in the US employ various methods to produce electricity from gas and one of them is to burn the gas in a boiler to produce steam. Petroleum: Only 1% of electricity is generated from this source.

Eastern Interconnection System: consisting of 2/3rds of the US. This electricity is usually transmitted as Alternating Current.1. Canadian System: having integrations with the Eastern and Western Systems. and can also be directly delivered to industries where it is required to balance torque in electric motors and generators. 3. to higher cost regions of the US. through a 3-phase system. These interconnections are grouped into 152 regional areas and are overseen by the ISOs and RTOs. each carrying one-third of the power. Diagram showing the interconnections. . therefore single phased loads are fed by individual phases. A larger commission called the North American Reliability Council (NERC) encompasses a further two interconnections: 4. Direct Current is rarely used in transmission in the US. DC is used to transmit electricity. for example. and then converted back into the AC form as it flows into the AC lines. The transmission system consists of an extensive complex network of interconnected high voltage power lines which transmit at voltages. But occasionally. which basically means that the transmission lines have 3 conductors. and cost more than transformers used to step down current from high to low voltages for end users. 5. Mexico System: having limited interconnections with the Texas & Western Interconnections. Texas Interconnection System: connects with others through direct current lines. because the electricity would have to be rectified from AC to DC as it flows into the DC power lines. This method is used because it requires less conductor material to transmit electricity as opposed to the single or double phase systems at the same voltages. splitting them into individual phases. Western Interconnection System: consisting of the southwest and areas west of the America’s Rocky Mountains. DC systems are used to for power grids connecting the Western Interconnection and the Eastern Interconnection and also occasionally to transmit power from low-cost power plants. the voltages are fed through a distribution board. ranging from 138kV-765kV and have been designed to transport electricity at the same precise electrical frequency of 60Hz from remote generators to customers. At residential buildings using single phased loads. An example of this is the power line running from northern Canada to the US generated from low-cost hydro-electric plants. These converters are quite expensive. 2.

As is widely known. other generation technologies can be relied upon. This regular maintenance ensures higher reliability of the grid. heavy metals such as mercury and volatile compounds which contribute to ground level ozone. water levels fall due to poor rainfall.Diagram of electricity generation. for maintenance purposes and still be sure that their customers will be supplied electricity from other interconnections. e. as systems can share generating resources in an interconnected network. Combination of generation mix and supply security: Different generation methods are combined. the half-life of some of these materials run into many years. e. Although oil represents such a small percentage. its impact on marine life is usually disastrous. therefore proper research needs to be done. there are still worldwide fears about the safety of nuclear plants and how to dispose the waste it produces. not to mention the process of its clean up. The achievement of 100% electrification in the US has not come without damage to the environment. can schedule power outages in certain parts of the grid. and also provide access to an independent backup grid connection. nuclear power. The benefits of this system (a synchronized interconnected power grid) include: Higher reliability and larger reserve: When supplies are short in one section. But an interconnection can help support the weak grid. Therefore in the event that a particular method becomes limited. Support for weaker grids: not all grids are designed to support certain generator technologies. Cost of building new generation capacity is reduced. One such repository is currently being developed in the Yucca Mountains of the United States. produces significant air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide. methane (greenhouse gases). Although nuclear fission does not produce CO 2. And in the eventuality of an accident. its burning. transmission and distribution in the USA. to generate electricity. reserves through the interconnected network can be relied upon to supply electricity. as these states can get electricity supply through the grid. to discover ways in which they can be properly stored. Better maintenance of the grid: Utility companies who own these grids. It is estimated that 37% of USs’ CO2 emissions come from coal fired plants. taking into consideration that the physical structures of the repositories could change over time. .g.g. Environmental impact: The use of an interconnected grid system eliminates the need to set up power generation plants in every state. and plans are currently underway to pump millions of dollars into CO2 capture technology for these plants.

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