Here’s the second article in the series on electric power system stability:
The electric current delivered when you turn on a switch is generated from the instant you operate the switch. There is no store of electric current in the grid. Only certain generators can provide this instant ‘service’.
The three fundamental parts of a power system are:
- its generators, which make the power,
- its loads, which use the power, and
- its grid, which connects them together.
Electricity consumers turn their lights and appliances on and off whenever they want. Factories turn on and off large industrial machinery whenever they want. Distribution companies can even turn whole cities on or off. This level of control at the consumer end and the almost always flawless response of the power system to deliver the required electricity, has led to a mistaken view about how the power system instantly provides this current. People imagine the electric grid must contain a store of electric current, immediately available on the other side the switch.
The mistaken view is that the instantly available on demand electric energy has already been produced and ready and waiting on the other side of their switch. There is voltage on the other side of the switch, but the additional current required for your load is generated only from the instant the switch is closed. There is no store of current in the grid. It’s the generators that instantly provide that current, and only some generators at that.
The current carrying components of an electric grid comprise only three types of things:
- conductors, typically either overhead wires and underground cables,
- transformers and several other sorts and voltage conversion devices, and
- switches, circuit breakers and fuses.
None of these store electric current. They transmit electricity over a distance, convert voltages up and down, and control the flow of current, but they don’t store it.
So if there is no storage in the grid the amount of electric power being put into the grid has to very closely match that taken out. If not, voltage and frequency will move outside of safe margins, and if the imbalance is not corrected very quickly it will lead to voltage and frequency excursions resulting in damage or outages, or both.
The next essay will discuss grid energy balance, imbalance and a definition of grid stability.