The Generation of Power in the United States

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The twenty-first century is marked with a high rate of technology development, and the United States is the second leading energy consumer after China (U.S. Energy Information Administration What is Energy? par. 7). Economic growth within the country makes the issue of power generation urgent, and encourages innovation in this sphere. However, contemporary industrial life is, to a large extent, governed by the already-existing principles and standards that form the mainstay of the power grid. Indeed, any technical improvements are interlaced with the structure that is under current use, and cannot be abandoned at once. The present paper will discuss the key concepts of power generation in America, including major energy sources, long-distance energy transmission over the country, and the power distribution within a house.

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First and foremost, energy cannot appear from nowhere. All sources of energy are categorized into two groups: renewable and nonrenewable. In the former case, sources may be replenished within a short period of time: These include biomass, hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal energy. In the latter case, supplies are limited: natural gas, crude oil, coal, and uranium. Both types may be converted into secondary energy sources, namely hydrogen and electricity. These are sometimes called energy-carriers, because they store and transmit energy in an easy-to-use form (U.S. Energy Information Administration What is Energy? par. 8).

Although most of the energy in the United States still comes from nonrenewable sources, there is an increasing tendency to use renewable energy. In 2015, natural gas, crude oil, and coal accounted for 26%, 20%, and 18% respectively of all energy produced. At the same time, renewable energy consumption rates have increased from 7.3% in 2010 to 13.8% in 2015 (U.S. Energy Information Administration What is Energy? par. 12). Within the latter group, hydroelectric power showed a downward trend, but taking solar and wind energy into consideration, overall production is higher. For example, the use of wind power grew from 10% of all new electric power generating capacity in 2006 to 40% in 2010 (Grigsby 1-10). Thus, the United States uses energy from different resources, and the proportions are constantly changing.

The main principle in producing power is rotation with the help of some mechanical energy. Corresponding to the energy source, power plants are built. In the case of hydroelectric power, water flows and makes turbines spin through the force of the water pushing against their blades. With wind energy, it is the wind that makes turbines rotate. Power plants may burn coal, oil, natural gas, or biomass, or use uranium chain reaction heat to cause rotation. To convert mechanical to electric energy, synchronous and induction generators are used (Grigsby 5-4). Solar energy is a kind of exception: power is generated with the help of crystals. When panels absorb sunlight, electrons start moving faster, providing current (Grigsby 8-7).

Whatever the source is, it is necessary not only to produce energy from it, but also to provide high-quality power transmission. Making up a significant part of the power grid, transmission lines connect generators with consumers. The Western Interconnection, the Eastern Interconnection, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas are three main American transmission networks (U.S. Energy Information Administration Electricity in the U.S. par. 12). Power may be transmitted through underground or overhead power lines made of aluminum alloy, sometimes reinforced with steel. Because of resistance, low-voltage electrical power output by generators has to be converted with a transformer so that transmission-level voltages usually equal 110 kV. High voltages result in electricity loss reduction that currently is estimated 6% throughout America (U.S. Energy Information Administration Electricity in the U.S. par. 14). Another method to enhance the transmission process over long distances is using thick wires, as the electric current mostly flows closer to the surface.

When the power reaches its destination, it is distributed. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) arrange electric rates for each state. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates the wholesale transactions (U.S. Energy Information Administration Electricity in the U.S. par. 15).

The distribution system consists of the networks that connect transformers and, on the other side, homes. Again, transformers lower voltage to make electricity safe and suitable for consumers. With the aid of the service drop, houses are connected with power. Electricity travels through a meter (the device that measures the amount of power used) and passes through wires inside walls to outlets, where it can be used by residents. The average electricity consumption in 2014 for a residential utility customer was 10,932 kWh (U.S. Energy Information Administration Electricity in the U.S. par. 18).

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In summary, modern technologies demand a considerable amount of energy. Since the United States is among the most developed countries, the issue of power generation becomes a central concern. Along with the improvements and future-oriented projects that are, undoubtedly, vital, one should also pay attention to the system that is in operation at the moment, and learn its functioning. In the United States, both nonrenewable and renewable energy sources are used, with influential secondary energy power, such as electricity. The process of providing consumers with energy includes several stages: generation, transmission, and delivery. Power grid function is a matter of great importance and affects everyone, whether they notice it or not. Consequently, it is necessary to advance one’s knowledge in this sphere.

References

Grigsby, Leonard L. Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2015. Print.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. Electricity in the U.S. 2016. Web.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. What is Energy? 2016. Web.

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