The production and distribution of electricity is one of the most
complicated and capital-intensive industrial processes in the
world. The effort of thousands of people and the investment of
billions of dollars are necessary to ensure the reliable electric
service that Americans enjoy.
the specifics of producing and distributing electricity are
complicated, the underlying fundamentals of generation,
transmission, and distribution are simple.
Electricity is produced, or generated, by the turning of turbines.
In most power plants, these turbines are turned by pressurized
steam. The steam is created by the burning of coal or other fossil
fuels in massive boilers. In the case of hydroelectricity, the force
of rushing water turns the turbines.
Once the turbines generate the electricity, its voltage is
significantly increased by passing it through step-up transformers.
Then the electricity is routed onto a network of high-voltage
transmission lines capable of efficiently transporting electricity
over long distances.
At the electric distribution substation that serves your home, the
electricity is removed from the transmission system and passed
through step-down transformers that lower the voltage. The
electricity is then transferred onto your local electric co-op's
network of distribution lines and delivered to your home. There, the
electricity's voltage is lowered again by a distribution transformer
and passed through your electric meter into your home's network of
electric wires and outlets.