In our modern society, we are very dependent on electricity and the benefits that it provides us. From connecting with others across the world for business to simply maintaining lighting in a home for comfort in the dark, there are countless ways in which we take advantage of electricity. For electricity to be harnessed by individuals in the way that it is, it must go through the stages of generation, transmission, and distribution which encompass the production of energy to the point it reaches the power outlet of a home or business. Each stage also contains various steps and hazards, warranting the need for safety measures due to the volatile nature of electricity.
For a country such as the United States, there may be numerous means of producing electricity. The most common methods, however, include the use of steam turbines, gas turbines, hydro turbines, wind turbines, and solar photovoltaics. Steam turbines are the most widely used system for power generation, and such devices utilize thermal energy from steam to create the mechanical power necessary to drive a generator for electrical production. Accounting for nearly 85% of electrical generation in the United States, steam turbines create steam through the use of fossil fuels, biomass, nuclear materials, and more. While the other methods may use varying resources and methods for power production, most will operate through the harnessing of various forms of energy to drive generators.
After electrical energy has been produced, it must be transferred from the generating site to a substation so that it may be distributed as necessary. While the produced current may be around 11kV to 33kV, it is quickly stepped up in a transformer upon leaving the power station to reach a voltage level between 100kV and 700kV. The voltage can reach higher levels if needed, and the voltage will often depend upon the distance that the current needs to travel before reaching a substation.
The first stage of transmission is known as primary power transmission, and it consists of the movement of electrical power between the generating station and a substation across transmission lines. Once reaching a receiving station, the voltage is stepped down to a voltage value between 33kV and 66kV. At this time, the current begins secondary power transmission in which it can then be sent to substations for distribution.
After power generation and transmission, distribution serves as the final stage of electric power delivery. With the use of distribution substations and transformers, the current is stepped down in voltage to a value ranging between 2kV and 35kV, and primary distribution lines move the current closer to homes and buildings. Before entering a home, the voltage is stepped down once again for safety. If a customer needs more power, however, they may be directly connected to the primary distribution or subtransmission level.
To ensure the safety of such processes and equipment, electric power companies must follow OSHA standards for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution. OSHA standards encompass many things, ranging from the regulations placed on hazardous materials to machine guarding. OSHA’s construction standards may be considered some of the most important as they provide directives on how to safely construct, repair, and handle the various substations, power lines, and other installations related to generation, transmission, and distribution.
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