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Oswego Career Ladders - Transmission and Distribution

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Transmission and Distribution

Electricity is vital for most everyday activities. From the moment you flip the first switch each morning, you are connecting to a huge network of people, electric lines, and generating equipment. Power plant operators control the machinery that generates electricity. Power plant distributors and dispatchers control the flow of electricity from the power plant, over a network of transmission lines, to industrial plants and substations, and, finally, over distribution lines to residential users.

Electric power
This segment includes firms engaged in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power. Electric plants harness highly pressurized steam or some force of nature to spin the blades of a turbine, which is attached to an electric generator. Coal is the dominant fuel used to generate steam in electric power plants, followed by natural gas, petroleum, nuclear power, and other energy sources. Hydroelectric generators are powered by the release of the tremendous pressure of water existing at the bottom of a dam or near a waterfall. Scientists also are conducting considerable research into renewable sources of electric power-- including geothermal, wind, and solar energy. Legislative changes and industry competition have created new classes of firms that generate and sell electricity. Some industrial plants have their own electricity-generating facilities, capable of producing more power than they require. Those that sell their excess power to utilities or to other industrial plants are called nonutility generators (NUGs). A type of NUG, termed an independent power producer, is an electricity-generating plant designed to take advantage of both industry deregulation and the latest generating technology to compete directly with utilities for industrial and other wholesale customers. Transmission or high voltage lines supported by huge towers connect generating plants with industrial customers and substations. At substations, the electricity's voltage is reduced and made available for household and small business use via distribution lines, which usually are carried by telephone poles.

Natural gas
Natural gas, a clear odorless gas, is found underground, often near or associated with crude oil reserves. Once found and brought to the surface, it is transported throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico by gas transmission companies using pressurized pipelines. Local distribution companies take natural gas from the pipeline, depressurize it, add its odor, and operate the system that delivers the gas from transmission pipelines to industrial, residential, and commercial customers. ndustrial customers, such as chemical and paper manufacturing firms, account for more than a third of natural gas consumption. Residential customers who use gas for heating and cooking, electric utilities, and commercial businesses--such as hospitals and restaurants--account for most of the remaining consumption.