A Lineworker’s Timeline: Restoring a Power Outage
“How long is it going to take?” Those are familiar words to all who work in the electric industry. It's a phrase I’ve been asked thousands of times in my career. It's the first thing people think when the lights go out. It doesn't take long sitting in the dark to realize how dependent we are on electricity and how much it makes our lives better and easier.
As a lineworker, it's always a good feeling to help people get their lights back on. I can remember times when I’ve been on storm or extended outages re-energizing neighborhoods and heard people in their homes cheering as their lights came on for the first time in days. No matter how tired I am or how long I’ve been working, that feeling will always make it worthwhile.
But what does it take to get those lights back on? Why does it sometimes take so long? We want to provide you with a better understanding of the process and the work Lane-Scott Electric line crews are doing to restore your power.
The electricity you use travels a great distance and goes through several steps to get to your home. It starts with a power plant that typically produces voltages of less than 30,000 volts. That voltage needs to be “stepped up” so it can travel long distances. That process starts in the power plant’s substation and switchyard where a transformer will step up the voltage to 345,000 volts, or sometimes higher, and send it out on transmission lines to another substation.
At the next substation, a transformer steps down the voltage to 69,000 volts and sends it out to smaller, local substations.
Local substations are the final destination before the electricity reaches your home. Here electricity is stepped down to 7,200 or 14,400 volts that can then be delivered to the poles outside your home. Once it arrives outside your home, it is stepped down a final time to 120/240 volts that operate all the devices that power your life.
What I just described is hundreds of miles of line and thousands of poles. That’s a lot of exposure for something to happen and cause an outage. Just like your home, our system has breakers. Our breakers help us reduce the exposure of the line and allow us to split our system into sections. Doing so helps limit the size of the outages and allows us to keep as many people on as possible. Breakers also help protect equipment on the line. Ever wonder why your lights blink a few times before going off? That's the breaker. They operate a few times trying to give the fault a chance to clear the line before they open for good.
Now that the lights have blinked, your breaker has opened, and the power is off, your local electric lineworker gets to work.