My data streams are telling me that about 300 million people who live in the United States rely on the delivery of electricity to their homes! So how do we even begin to safely transmit electric power from where it’s generated to where it’s needed? Our team of top investigators are reporting it has to do with the electrical transmission system. But what is that even made of?
Hmm … well first we should understand the true nature of electricity. Electricity is made of a current of tiny negatively-charged particles called electrons. And these electrons desperately want to connect with the ground and find balance again.
Let’s take a bolt of lightning for example. When it strikes … KABOOM! The electrons travel from the negatively-charged cloud into the positively-charged ground to find equilibrium again. So if electricity is always attracted to the ground, we need a path for our electrons to travel on that (a) avoids transmitting electrons into the ground, (b) connects to our homes, and (c) is safe to use. And the answer may be closer than you think, Agent ….
Let’s scope the area. See any cords connecting to your computer? Or do you use a cable to plug in your TV, phone, or spy gadgets? If you’re seeing wires, you found an important clue! Metal wires made from aluminum or copper allow electrons to travel from one point to another and are excellent conductors. Conductors are materials that allow electrons to flow easily from one atom to another. And for such a high demand, we need huge bundles of wires to carry LOTS and LOTS of electricity to all the people who need it!
Oh! But … there’s a catch. If a wire touches the ground, we still lose energy. So how can we prevent our wires from touching the ground? That’s where insulators come in. Insulators are materials that prohibit electrons from flowing easily from one atom to another, such as glass, rubber, plastic, and air. And which of those materials is the most readily available to use? Why air of course. Nice work, detective!
Therefore, we need to suspend our wires in the air with poles to prevent the loss of energy. Take a look at the picture from our spy cams … Does this structure look familiar to you? You may have passed by several of these when riding in a car – and never even noticed it!
These are transmission lines and they are a key component in the electrical transmission system. They help carry electric power from one point to another. But transmission lines are only one piece of the puzzle …. Go undercover and spy on this video to decode the other parts of the electrical transmission system! And if your teacher downloads the lesson plans below, you and your classmates will shine a light on electrical power.