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High Voltage Power Lines Why?

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Curriculum Development in Electrical ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.692.1 - 10.692.5

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Paper Authors

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Walter Banzhaf

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3247

High-Voltage Power Lines - WHY?

Walter Banzhaf, P.E.

College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT 06117

Introduction Electrical utility companies provide our world with the electrical energy needed to operate most things that do not move (in our homes, schools, and offices), while fossil fuels provide the energy mostly for things that do move (cars, boats, airplanes). The existence of the electrical utility infrastructure is apparent to us when we drive cars or walk in our neighborhoods and see poles, towers, transformers, insulators and conductors, and when blackouts occur due to storm damage and vehicle accidents. However, many are unaware of the existence of, or reasons for, high-voltage transmission and distribution lines, and fewer still understand why such lethal potentials are present in our residential neighborhoods. While some introductory courses1 in Electronic Engineering Technology (EET) programs do provide an orientation to the electrical utility system, and some programs2,3,4 have courses, or a concentration, in electrical utility systems, the need for high-voltage lines may not be clear to most EET students. This paper describes a simple demonstration circuit which illustrates why high voltage is needed, and makes apparent the benefits of using it.

Background Transmission and distribution are terms used by the electrical power companies to describe, respectively, high-voltage three-phase power lines at 69,000 volts or more that connect generation facilities (power plants) to substations near the neighborhoods where electrical energy is used, and the somewhat lower voltage power lines (less than 69,000 volts) that go from the neighborhood substation to the street near the homes and businesses which consume electrical energy. A substation contains transformers that step down the transmission voltages (69 kV or more) to the voltages that are used for distribution (less than 69 kV; 23 kV is commonly-used).

High-voltage power lines are expensive, and inherently dangerous, and require rights of way, tall towers, and big insulators. Transformers at both ends of the power lines are large and expensive. Students in EET programs should know why such transmission and distribution systems are used: to save money and energy by minimizing the energy lost between the generation site and the location where the energy is used.

Basic Concepts Students need an understanding of two basic concepts to appreciate why high-voltage electrical transmission and distribution systems are necessary: (1) power delivered to a load is the product

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Banzhaf, W. (2005, June), High Voltage Power Lines Why? Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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