Transmission: The backbone of the grid

It’s a beautiful day – sun is shining, blue skies. Your family just arrived at your beach rental, ready to start your week-long vacation.

And then, the power goes out.

Five minutes pass … then five hours … then two days.

There is no air conditioning, no refrigeration and the town has limited power.

Angry, upset, frustrated, you turn your car around and head home.

Your vacation is over before it began.

Power is something we take for granted, especially on beautiful summer days. But about two years ago, the above scenario was a reality.

The Outer Banks, North Carolina experienced more than a week-long outage when a transmission line was accidentally hit during bridge construction work.

Thousands of vacations were ruined and millions in small business revenue was lost.

Why would a problem on one power line affect such a large area?

It has to do with what type of line was hit.

There are two major types of lines when thinking about the large, interconnected electric grid – transmission and distribution.

Transmission lines (#2) transport high-voltage power over long distances to substations (#3) where voltage is reduced and sent out over distribution lines to serve homes and businesses (#4 and #5).

You can think of it like the highway and local roadway system. Transmission lines are the highways – moving electricity efficiently and safely over long distances.

Distribution lines are like the local roadways, delivering electricity directly to our homes and businesses.

Transmission is the backbone of the grid. It enables a cleaner energy future by connecting us to wind, solar and hydroelectric power.

It helps reliability, by getting power to where it’s needed most.

It provides affordable power, by connecting consumers to hundreds of large-scale generators.

It assists national security by providing a strong, integrated structure to respond to the increasing number and severity of weather, physical and cyber threats.

And, it also drives local economies by delivering the electricity that powers all aspects of our lives.

The importance of transmission and of a safe, secure and resilient grid will continue to increase. By investing now, we’re helping to reduce outages and keeping reliability strong.

Tracie L. Witter is regional affairs director for PPL Electric Utilities. Email her at tlwitter@pplweb.com.

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