Letter writer: Recent letter describing power generation and distribution was inaccurate

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Stephen Schulte’s description of the power generation and distribution process is inaccurate [In Substation Issue, Electrical Current Law Doesn’t Bend for Kids, June 10, Xpress].

Generators in a power station draw their electrons from the ground at zero voltage. The generators raise the voltage to 25,000 volts and put out three phases. Transformers at the power station step the voltage up to values over 110,000 volts for long-distance transmission. There is no neutral line in power transmission.

Transformers closer to the points of consumption step the voltage back down. The transformers on the poles near our houses take a single phase and step it down to two lines of 120 volts each and 240 volts across them.

In our homes, the electrons go through our lights and appliances and emerge at almost zero volts. The return current is carried in the neutral wire back to the breaker box. There, the neutral and ground wires are joined and are carried back to the ground.

Look on the ground, near the foundation by the electric meter or close to the breaker box. You will find a wire clamped to a metal rod in the ground.

— Doug Bennett

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One thought on “Letter writer: Recent letter describing power generation and distribution was inaccurate

  1. Robert Thompson


    There is no continuity between your house and the generation station.
    Electrons aren’t slurped up from the ground and pumped to somewhere else as water is.
    Neutral is developed at the transformer that feeds your house.
    The ground rod is a safety device and becomes “active” in case of an electrical fault.
    No such thing as return current.

    Things to know: The difference between voltage and current, how it applies to watts and the transmission of electricity. The difference between neutral and earth ground. How electricity is generated mechanically. How transformers operate (magnetic field, induction). Frequency/Hertz(Hz). Alternating current(AC). And very importantly, electrical potential.

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