# How does the typical mains power connect in the USA anyway?

Page 4 of 16
• posted on November 25, 2013, 10:15 pm
On Monday, November 25, 2013 4:22:33 PM UTC-5, Danny D'Amico wrote:

There isn't an argument, John is right.

The problem is the earth isn't used as a humongous conductor by the power plant.

It is zero potential relative to the grounded neutral. That doesn't mean there is current flowing in the earth. To have something at zero potential doesn't even require a circuit. Take a metal cabinet sitting on an insulator and hook a wire from it to another metal object, or a neutral, a 120V hot wire, a 7KV primary. They are now at the same potential and no current is flowing.

They are *not* both valid. You have it wrong.

Sigh....

On this point John is correct, and you still have it wrong.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 25, 2013, 11:33 pm
On Mon, 25 Nov 2013 14:15:05 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Well, this entire discussion is about how the power supply works, so, it is germane to the discussion how the power company completes the circuit.
I don't have any more arguments, and, we *do* have at least one reference which supports my statement.
That doesn't mean I'm correct. What it means is we need more references (either way), instead of our statements (since we all sincerely believe what we're stating).
Googling for: "how does electricity get back to the power company -solar"
This is on the first page (which was referenced already): http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/power3.htm It agrees with what I said (on page 4).
Here it says the same thing (that the earth is the return path): http://www.science.smith.edu/~jcardell/Courses/EGR220/ElecPwr_HSW.html
And here: http://www.electricityforum.com/electricity-how-it-works.html
Now, that does not prove that the earth is the return path for the electricity back to the power company, but, it is clearly a half dozen (or so) references which say what I've always thought was the case.
That means that the idea isn't so far fetched as it may appear. Admittedly, most of these references were cut out of the same mold (probably due to my search terms?), so I welcome someone who can find a reference that says the earth is *not* the return path for the HVAC typical power generated in the USA.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 12:03 am
On Monday, November 25, 2013 6:33:07 PM UTC-5, Danny D'Amico wrote:

I didn't see anyone here saying it wasn't germane, only that you're wrong.

So, now one reference to a light-weight, novice level tutorial on power distribution is the authoritative source? Why don't you look at all the other sources that say he's wrong? As I already pointed out, you can start with looking at what the author of that reference himself said immediately preceeding:
" "There are four wires coming out of every power plant: the three phases plus a neutral or ground common to all three."
If the power company is using the earth, why would there be a 4th wire? And clearly the author doesn't understand the difference between a neutral, which is a current carrying conductor, and a ground. Neither did you until we explained it to you with regard to split-phase service to a house. But you don't have a clue to how it works on the primary side. I've told you at least 6 times now, that with a balanced load, which is what the world looks like to a power plant, there is no need for any return circuit path other than the 3 phase wires coming out. Good grief.

If you spent half the time looking that you do arguing, you'd have found plenty of references by now that say you're wrong. I'm starting to understand John's annoyance. You came in here not knowing a ground from a neutral. Now you're here acting like your opinion is worth as much as anyone else's. I believe John is an electrician. I'm an EE, Bud is too. All of us are telling you that you're wrong.

Good grief, that's a repeat of the same thing too. Right at the top it references "How stuff works". All those references use the exact same words, go back to the one same place, the same "How stuff works" guy.

Are you that stupid that you think 6 places that use the same incorrect source somehow makes it right?

Maybe you should do that yourself. You might learn something.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 12:56 am
On 11/25/13 6:03 PM, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

A bit here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/mccxaq2 The source calls itself Transmission and Distribution World. I don't remember seeing a single wire anywhere in my travels. It's admittedly not high on my list of things to observe while traveling. And I haven't traveled outside of the continental U.S.
SWER evidently isn't efficient according to this bit.
Quote:
Conductor characteristics. Line length varies according to customer distribution, with an average SWER feeder length of 60 km (37 miles), although a 400-km (250-mile) SWER system is in operation in one state. Therefore, circuit losses because of the high resistance of the SWER conductors, reactive losses in the isolating transformers and resistive losses in the earthing systems can be up to 100% greater compared to those of a single-phase (two-wire) system serving similar loads.
End quote.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 2:18 am

Ah, a reference to Australia. :-)
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 1:54 am
On Mon, 25 Nov 2013 16:03:48 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

I'd be perfectly happy to be wrong. It's not a contest.
This is a technical discussion.
We're just looking for a reference that supports the view that the earth is *not* the return path (since we only found references that support the view that it is).
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 2:16 am

Terminology, that is the question. Ground common? Hmmm, seems to be a non-North American phrase. But, we all know that the system is getting dumbed down and proper terminology is going out the window. It is hard to get people to excise the term "ground" from their perception of how a circuit works, much less how other aspects of safely implementation a power distribution system works, or the separation of enforcement and installation practices vary for each phase of the distribution. It would appear that Danny cannot separate utility from customer, or the exception from the rule. Nor does he understand charge, electric potential, electro motive force, or just electricity, in general.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 12:13 am

Why would the heating, ventilation and air conditioning go back to the power generating station ?
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 1:55 am
On Mon, 25 Nov 2013 19:13:25 -0500, Ralph Mowery wrote:

High voltage A/C.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 1:39 am
"Danny D'Amico"

** The simple answer is it doesn't - so the question is absurd.
Home solar power goes nowhere until the current generated exceeds that being consumed by the house - the excess then goes to the neighbour's houses via the local grid.
Ground conductors plus the earth itself carry NO current UNLESS a fault exists.
Ground conductors exist for safety reasons.
FYI:
Ask Google a crazy question = get a crazy answer.
... Phil
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 1:55 pm
On 11/25/2013 03:33 PM, Danny D'Amico wrote:

Modern polyphase power has no ground for reference. This is a major pain in the ass when trying to find 120Vac on top of a mountain.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 7:01 pm
wrote:

Of course it does. It's a wye at the substation. The center *is* ground.

...and here I thought the problem was getting the wires up there in the first place.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 3:23 pm
I don't see the earlier comment, but from the links and the search question, I presume the conversation was about a circuit term referred to as "return".
A lot f folks are fixated on naming one power lead as "return", when there is nothng related to any sort of "return" taking place in a circuit.
There are 2 conductors.. and one is a higher potential than the other. That's all there is to it, but you'll probably never fnd ths statement in any text book.
The power is disspated at the load, and there is nothing to return to any other location.
I don't know where the fantasy of a return originated, but there is none iin an electrical circuit. Hydraulic circuit, yes, thre is generally always a return line.. for obvious reasons.
The earth, meaning the planet, is not half of an electrical crcuit.. with maybe one exception being lightning strikes. Hills and terrain affect RF energy, and the ground/earth at the base of an antenna is often imbedded with conductors to form a ground plane.
Electrical circuts deliver power to an appliance, tool, light bulb etc as the two differing potentials, and the power is disspated as heat, light, motion etc at the device beng powered.
It is aburd to belive that power is returned thru many miles of distribution gear and back to the generation source, or that it's returned thru the soil. Yet, the majorty of folks believe and continue to express/repeat this concept.
--
Cheers,
WB
.............
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 5:39 pm
Wild_Bill scrit:

The guy gfretwell showed us a few amps of current heading directly into the ground.
Where did those few amps come from, and where did they go?
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 29, 2013, 5:42 pm
After shuffling across the carpet in your slippers, a spark is created when you touch a doorknob.
Following the flawed concept of "return" as a circuit concept, the spark goes where? It travels thru a wooden door, it's hinges, the door frame, building structure etc, to earth ground?
Or, is the spark injected into the human, from a resulting high ground potential? Ground, (often mistakenly understood as having zero/no potential) is lurking in doorknobs waiting to zap some unsuspecting doofus.
--
Cheers,
WB
.............
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 7:05 pm
On Tue, 26 Nov 2013 10:23:23 -0500, "Wild_Bill"

Nonsense.

You can't have current without a closed loop.

No current = no power.

You're blind.

The same reasons.

It certainly can be, but isn't normally.

Irrelevant.

Now talk about the other half of the story.

It's absurd to deny the fact that a "return" exists.

...and they're correct.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 9:28 pm
Wild_Bill wrote:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-wire_earth_return
--
Anyone wanting to run for any political office in the US should have to
have a DD214, and a honorable discharge.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 26, 2013, 10:54 pm
On 11/26/2013 3:28 PM, Michael A. Terrell wrote:

I think it was used in the early days of the REA.
Where has it been used in the US in the last 50 years.
I don't remember ever seeing transmission or distribution lines without a neutral.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 27, 2013, 12:43 am

We had it well inside the city but it was about 50 years ago.

You've never seen a delta? HV lines are often deltas. There really isn't any need to carry a neutral around. It cost\$.
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<%-name%>
• posted on November 27, 2013, 12:50 am

There is a static line above most HV transmission lines but it is not a neutral.