In getting an overview about how Electrical Grids work, I was hoping to connect the dots from voltage up to the materials (used in modern electrical grids).

I am wondering if one could outline briefly the high-level materials / components used in building one. This could just be as simple as a stereotypical design, or a more modern idealistic one.

I am basically hoping to get introduced to the structure of some of the main pieces so I can look further. The wiki page only talks about voltage and distributing electricity. The Power station page has more of what I am looking for but doesn't describe materials/construction. As an example, my attempt at describing an electrical grid system is this: "An electrical grid is composed of a set of power stations (which generate the energy) and a set of wires? (which transmits the energy) to a green box in your neighborhood. The wires to the green box are wrapped in x rubber and made out of 70% copper and 30% x generally. They are on average 1-inch thick, so they can carry x voltage. The power station stores the electricity in big batteries made out of x, surrounded by concrete to prevent electricity leakage. They have motors made out of x, y, and z typically too.." As you can see, I don't know what I am talking about lol, this was just a demo. Essentially, just a high-level intro to the materials and components when going from power station through the grid to the house. Thank you so much for your help. I know it sounds broad but I am really just hoping for a few sentences to get introduced and get started with learning more, given the terminology.

I have seen basic documentaries describing aspects of wind/solar/energy production, so I understand the gist of that. But hoping to put names to the materials of things so I can learn more about the physics of it.


closed as too broad by Rev1.0, R Drast, laptop2d, Dmitry Grigoryev, DoxyLover Jun 22 '18 at 23:51

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably too broad question. Can you narrow it down a bit? Do you want to know when copper versus aluminium conductors are used? Do you want to know when oil impregnated paper versus extruded plastic is used as insulator? "The power station stores the electricity in big batteries made out of x" This will be a mighty rare occation in any grid. \$\endgroup\$ – winny Jun 20 '18 at 8:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that is a little too specific for my needs. I literally don't know anything about how the electrical grid works, so was just hoping for an elevator pitch / list of materials so I can organize my thoughts on more specific questions. I would like to understand generally how electrons flow from power station to house, what it passes through without going into too much detail. But I'd like to know the materials of the things too, roughly at least. Copper/<metal>/<rubber>/<concrete>/etc. Not down to the copper brand or subcategories and whatnot, that would be too much I think. \$\endgroup\$ – Lance Pollard Jun 20 '18 at 8:20
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The list of materials usel is fairly short: copper, aluminium, transformer oil, laminated iron, plastic, impregnated paper and porcelain will cover almost everything when it comes to transporting electricity. For a very broad how the electrons flow to your house, that’s way too broad and I would recommend Wikipedia. \$\endgroup\$ – winny Jun 20 '18 at 8:55

The first thing I'll tell everyone who asks about electrons is to ignore them; the energy is in the electrical and magnetic fields.

Generally power is transmitted using aluminum for high-voltage overhead lines (because it weighs much less than copper) and copper for the lower-voltage "last mile" transmission, although the details of this may vary by country. Some Americans still have aluminum wiring in their houses, from before it was determined to be a fire hazard. The characteristic electricity pylons are usually structural steel.

Power station and wind turbine etc generator windings are nearly always copper. The copper is nearly pure: http://copperalliance.org.uk/copper-and-its-alloys/alloys/copper-conductivity-materials-database/electrolytic-tough-pitch-copper

Wire diameter is determined by required current capacity. There are standard tables for determining this based on assumptions about heating etc.

Wire voltage determines how much insulation is required; the high-voltage overhead wires aren't actually covered in insulation, but they are held away from the towers by ceramic insulating standoffs.

There are very, very few grid batteries and they are all somewhat experimental - electricity must be generated as it is used. There's a bunch of other questions on this site about how that's achieved.

A bit of googling has found this PDF listing some common cable types, their voltages and construction materials.


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