Tracing the journey of electricity from generation to your home through the electric grid
Electricity plays an essential role in everyday life. It powers our homes, offices, hospitals and schools. We depend on it to keep us warm in the winter (and cool in the summer), charge our phones and binge our favorite TV shows. If the power goes out, even briefly, our lives can be disrupted.
The system that delivers your electricity is often described as the most complex machine in the world, and it’s known as the electric grid.
What makes it so complex? We all use different amounts of electricity throughout the day, so the supply and demand for electricity is constantly changing. For example, we typically use more electricity in the mornings when we’re starting our day, and in the evenings when we’re cooking dinner and using appliances. Severe weather and other factors also impact how much electricity we need.
The challenge for electric providers is to plan for, produce and purchase enough electricity so it’s available exactly when we need it. Too much or too little electricity in one place can cause problems. So, to make sure the whole system stays balanced, the electric grid must adjust in real time to changes and unforeseen events.
At its core, the electric grid is a network of power lines, transformers, substations and other infrastructure that span the entire country. But it’s not just a singular system. It’s divided into three major interconnected grids: the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. These grids operate independently but are linked to allow electricity to be transferred between regions when backup support is required.
Within the three regions, seven balancing authorities known as independent system operators (ISOs) or regional transmission organizations (RTOs) monitor the grid, signaling to power plants when more electricity is needed to maintain a balanced electrical flow. ISOs and RTOs are like traffic controllers for electricity.
THE JOURNEY OF ELECTRICIT Y BEGINS AT POWER PLANTS
Power plants can be thought of as factories that make electricity using various energy sources, like natural gas, solar, wind and nuclear energy. Across the U.S., more than 11,000 power plants deliver electricity to the grid.
OEC receives power from our generation and transmission (G&T) co-op, Western Farmer’s Electric Cooperative. We work closely with WFEC to provide electricity at the lowest cost possible. Being part of a G&T benefits members like you by placing ownership and control in the hands of your co-op, prioritizing affordability and reliability, supporting local economic development and fostering a sense of community.
To get the electricity from power plants to you, we need a transportation system.
High-voltage transmission lines act as the highways for electricity, transporting power over long distances. These lines are supported by massive towers and travel through vast landscapes, connecting power plants to electric substations.
Substations are like pit stops along the highway, where the voltage of electricity is adjusted. They play a crucial role in managing power flow and ensuring that electricity is safe for use in homes and businesses.
Once the electricity is reduced to the proper voltage, it travels through distribution power lines, like the ones you typically see on the side of the road. Distribution lines carry electricity from substations to homes, schools and businesses. Distribution transformers, which look like metal buckets on the tops of power poles or large green boxes on the ground, further reduce the voltage to levels suitable for household appliances and electronic devices.
After traveling through transformers, electricity reaches you––to power everyday life.
We’re proud to be your local, trusted energy provider. From the time it’s created to the time it’s used, electricity travels great distances to be available at the flip of a switch. That’s what makes the electric grid our nation’s most complex machine––and one of our nation’s greatest achievements.
Share this article
Winter brings increased indoor activities and higher heating demands, putting a strain on the electric grid. Learn how OEC collaborates with Western Farmers Electric Cooperative to ensure consistent power supply and discover practical tips to help reduce energy consumption. From optimizing thermostat settings to staggering appliance use, these strategies not only ease grid pressure but also offer potential savings on your electric bills. Join us in maintaining grid reliability and enjoy a warm, efficient winter season.
Discover how OEC’s diverse team of volunteers, from technicians to executives, dedicated their time to scorekeeping, line judging, and cheering at the volleyball events. This heartwarming story showcases OEC’s commitment to community service and inclusion, exemplifying the spirit of the Special Olympics. Read on to experience the power of sports in uniting communities and making a positive impact.
Discover how Over-The-Air (OTA) updates are revolutionizing the electric vehicle (EV) industry and the pivotal role OEC Fiber plays in this transformation. Learn about the advantages and challenges of OTA updates, their impact on vehicle performance, safety, and how OEC Fiber’s high-speed internet ensures timely and secure software enhancements. This article explores the intersection of technology and EVs, highlighting how continuous updates and reliable connectivity are reshaping the future of driving.
Discover how the OEC Foundation is making a significant impact in the community by awarding over $40,000 in grants to various local organizations and families. These funds are enhancing essential services like fire safety, foster care, and health initiatives, as well as spreading holiday cheer to at-risk families. Learn about the diverse range of projects benefiting from this generosity, including support for literacy programs and life-changing summer camps for children with chronic illnesses.