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Not only does electricity make it possible for us to live comfortably at home, it also powers critical equipment in hospitals, businesses and more. Great River Energy consistently monitors the power line system to identify areas that need upgrading. We also work continuously with our 28 member cooperatives to keep the power flowing.
If you ever have been in a room or building when the lights dimmed unexpectedly, you experienced the results of low voltage on the power line system. While dimming lights may be a minor inconvenience, sudden reductions in voltage can cause significant problems for industrial or manufacturing companies. Additionally, low voltage can damage motors in appliances such as air conditioners; the motors compensate for their power needs by drawing in more electric current. That creates more heat, sometimes so much that the motors burn out. Uncorrected low voltage problems can ultimately lead to a blackout.
Lightning, animals coming in contact with power lines or substations, falling trees and heavy ice building up on power lines are the most common causes of power outages. However, outages also occur when use of electricity is higher in an area than the transmission infrastructure can handle. When more power is being used than the system can handle, it becomes overloaded and the system shuts down.
You and others in your area will have a more reliable supply of electricity. Nearly all lines are built to improve reliability, most often to reduce the risks of outages and the adverse effects of low voltage described above.
Usually new power lines are needed when use of electricity in a certain area has grown beyond what the existing transmission can handle. Other times power lines are needed to connect a new power plant to the power line system.
Finally, sometimes power lines are needed to provide a source of back-up power (such as adding an alternate source of power to an existing facility or provide a link between utilities). In these cases, think of the line as serving the same purpose as a road construction detour. When one path is unavailable, it is important to have an alternate path. The reliability we take for granted is in large part due to sources of back-up power on the system.
Overall, we are using more electricity in the United States than ever before. Increased demand in Great River Energy’s service area also is driven by conversions to electric heat and other factors.
Conservation efforts are one way to reduce growth in use of electricity and Great River Energy actively promotes saving electricity. However, as long as there continues to be new businesses, new houses and new uses for electricity, new power line projects will be needed to reliably serve electricity.