Whenever you flip a switch, charge your smartphone, or store food in the freezer, you’re relying on the grid to bring you reliable electricity.
At a basic level, the electric grid is a set of interconnected wires connecting places where energy is produced to where it is used. Over time, the grid has become smarter, more dynamic, and increasingly interconnected due to advancements in technology along with additional wind and solar energy resources.
Great River Energy is the wholesale power supplier to Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, and uses the grid to move energy and information to ensure reliable electric and quick response times when there is an issue on the electric system.
But how does the grid work? Electricity is made by huge spinning turbines at generating stations using coal, wind, natural gas, or water. Electricity from these generators, located at places like power plants and windfarms, is pushed along high voltage transmission lines to substations where the voltage can be “stepped down” to lower, more usable levels. Then, it is sent along smaller distribution lines, like those owned by Steele-Waseca, to be delivered to neighborhoods.
From there, smaller transformers reduce the voltage again to make the power safe to use in homes, schools, farms and small businesses. These smaller transformers may be mounted on poles or sitting on the ground (they’re the big green boxes called pad-mounted transformers).
Electricity then runs underground from the transformer to your house and passes through a meter that measures how much each home or business uses. Then, it goes to a service panel where breakers or fuses protect the wires inside your house from being overloaded. Electricity then travels through wires inside the walls to the outlets and switches that we use every day in homes and businesses.
That’s how reliable power gets to you in our increasingly power-dependent world.