The story of Electricity Generation from pipelines to pylons


| Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 |



If ever you’ve wondered why mains electricity is  a.c. (alternating current) not d.c. (direct current), or why pylons have three wires hanging down each side, or why mains power is a sine wave and not, say, a square wave, then this online feature is for you!

Back in 1999 I was a guest of National Power, as it was then known, a major owner/operator in  Britain’s power generation sector. One of their new Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power stations was under maintenance, and the entire station was laid bare. It was an ideal opportunity for me to delve into the innermost workings of a new power station to discover how they work. I could then plot the distribution of electricity, all the way from 400,000V (SuperGrid) power right down to the 230V a.c. domestic wall socket that’s powering the PC I’m using right now.

National Power was extremely generous in its hospitality and I had unrestricted access to the entire power plant during a shutdown. I also saw how electricity was “traded” every day as each power station would “bid” for some business with Britain’s National Grid. I learned a lot about electricity generation when researching this story, and I soon appreciated the gargantuan efforts that are made to deliver this essential utility right into our homes and factories.

The result was a 10,000 word general-interest feature – Power Generation from Pipelines To Pylons – which first appeared in EPE Magazine August and September 1999. I found this project immensely satisfying and interesting, and I hope you enjoy reading this web-enabled reprint.

You can read the full story on the following pages along with my photos and diagrams to help things along. I've also featured topics on electricity pylon function, (UK) fuse ratings and First Aid.


Please select a Chapter from the index below.

Part 1: The evolution of electrical mains power and where UK power comes from today. Part 2: The problem of electrical power distribution: transformer basics explained. Part 3: Inside a CCGT power station. Turbines introduced.
Part 4: Generators, frequency control, pylons, three phase distribution. Part 5: Neutral and Ground; Delta and Star connections. The supply to your home. Part 6: Getting down to Earth; Electrical Safety considerations.

More resources:

| Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 |

© 1999-2011 Alan Winstanley, Wimborne Publishing Ltd. All photographs © 1999-2011 Alan Winstanley. Worldwide Copyright Reserved.