Thursday, 12 March 2015

First commercial distribution of electric power

In the very early days of electricity distribution (for example Thomas Edison's Pearl Street Station), direct current (DC) generators were connected to loads at the same voltage. The generation, transmission and loads had to be of the same voltage because there was no way of changing DC voltage levels, other than inefficient motor-generator sets. Low DC voltages (around 100 volts) were used since that was a practical voltage for incandescent lamps, which were the primary electrical load. Low voltage also required less insulation for safe distribution within buildings. The loss in a cable is proportional to the square of the current, and the resistance of the cable. A higher transmission voltage would reduce the copper size to transmit a given quantity of power, but no efficient method existed to change the voltage of DC power circuits. To keep losses to an economically practical level the Edison DC system needed thick cables and local generators. Early DC generating plants needed to be within about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of the farthest customer to avoid excessively large and expensive conductors.

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