Utilities

Electricity/Communication

Electricity

The system in the US that generates and distributes electrical power is something vaguely called “the grid”. The grid is a truly massive collection of power generation facilities of all kinds feeding electricity into large overhead lines. These big power lines are supported by towers that march across the landscape to distribution centers near your home. From there the power is delivered to your home by either overhead or underground wires owned by your local electrical utility. At your home the connection to the grid is by means of your local electrical utility company wires and the point of connection is at your electric meter.
Image from the air of an electricity generation plant by the sea
Electricity generation plant

The utility companies generate electricity from a number of energy sources including: (listed in rough percentage of total generated as of 2017) natural gas 32%, coal 30%, nuclear 20%, hydroelectric 8%, wind 6%, biomass 2%, and solar 2%.  As you can see, over eighty percent of the power comes from the nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources. These sources make/burn BTU’s that are used to make steam to spin turbines that generate the electricity. Taken together, the various fuel sources are only about 33% efficient. That means 67% of the BTU’s burned to make electricity are shockingly lost or wasted during generation. It turns out that making electricity or harnessing any useful energy from BTU’s is an inefficient business.

It is also interesting to know that once generated, 10-13% of the electricity is lost during the transmission of the electricity to the home. Ten percent doesn’t sound like much until you realized that amount would be the equivalent of all the wind, solar and hydropower combined. This is why conservation is so important. When you conserve any amount of electricity you not only save the amount that you would have used, you also save the BTU power that would have been used during its generation and lost during transport to you.

Consider this too, of the electricity that finally makes it to the average American home and paid for at the meter, 18-23% is lost due to wasteful practices, poor conservation or unknowingly through mismanagement. Here is a list of the ways you can stop wasting electricity. Using 2017 averages saving 1 watt of electricity in the home saves the generation of approximately 4 watts at the power plant. So conservation is good and it is well worth the effort. Remember you provide a 4 watt bonus to the energy grid for every 1 watt of conservation at home.

Communication

Telephone/TV/Cable/Network/Satellite.The basic communication forms in 1970 included the land-wired telephone, TV (via antenna) and radio (via antenna). Things have changed. We still have those things of course, but the way they are delivered now is totally different, plus we now have the newcomer, the internet. Today cable and satellite rule the air.
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