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

According to data released by the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).5 million. coal fired power plants burn coal to make steam.5% of total world produced. Cyclone furnaces: About 738 coal fired power plants are currently in operation in the USA. The processes involved. the USA was only able to produce 4119. as economic growth rises.In the world today.509 million short tons (a short ton approx. Therefore to protect itself and also the masses.603TWh of electricity. to complement the older plants already in existence. and also to the relatively low cost of coal. where deposits. government creates policies aimed at regulating the power generation industry. of which the United States of America with its population of 304. 2. These include: a. To produce electricity. Another major source of energy in the USA is Natural gas. price capping on electricity prices. In the USA.155. and in the process produces electricity. These policies include incentives to encourage further private investments.344 TWh of electricity according to the same data.248GWh of the estimated electricity. it was estimated that the world would consume 18.085. This is due in part to the inability of the various governments to fund the construction and maintenance of power generation plants. this can be attributed both to the abundant deposits of coal found in the US. Pulverised coal system: b. This has led to wide spread deregulation of the power sector in various countries. taking up to 45% of the total energy sources used. power generation has become a pressing issue. rank among the highest in the world.92 TWh of it. In the year 2010 alone. According to a report by the IEA for the year 2008. will consume 4.) and . etc. Diagram showing coal deposits in the US - In that year. This in itself has not come without its own problems such as cost per kilowatt of electricity. Coal was the major source of energy generation. and 93% of this total was used to produce 4 trillion kWh of electricity.18474kg. the United States estimated to produce 4.000lbs or 907. which turns a turbine. circulate around the method of feeding the coal into the furnace. constituting close to 24% of energy sources. for electricity generation. proven reserves of natural gas for the year 2009 stood at about 272. coal mines in the USA produced about 1. coal has always been a major source of energy for centuries. making it the highest consumer for that year. from 26 States. At a later published journal. placing it at the top with 21. In that same year.3 million short tons of coal.

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

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

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

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