Another reason to save electricity – line loss

If you’re a dollar or environmentally conscious sort of person, you’ve probably already implemented quite a few electricity saving tips to reduce your energy consumption and personal electricity related emissions.

There’s another really good reason to trim back on electricity use – an issue called line loss. If you have crunched the numbers on your household electricity emissions previously based on the consumption shown on your utility bill, they could be as much as 6 – 10% higher than calculated due to line loss.

What is line loss?

As electricity travels over miles of transmission lines to get to our homes, it experiences resistance and as a result, some of its energy is lost – usually as heat. The further the electricity has to travel, the more electricity is lost.

When you consider the high end of the scale, this means that for every 10 tons of coal burned for electricity generation; up to one ton is lost just through the line loss issue.

According to a related article on National Geographic, the amount of line loss experienced annually in the United States is enough to run 14 cities the size of New York!

The US Department Of Energy states in 2007, national-level losses averaged out to 6.5% of total electricity disposition excluding direct use.

US line losses – state statistics

If you’re in the USA and curious about line loss statistics for your state, the Energy Information Administration has estimates for total annual losses related to electricity transmission and distribution in each state electricity profile.

Click on the link corresponding to your state and at the bottom of the following page, click the spreadsheet link for “Table 10. Supply and Disposition of Electricity”, which will display line loss figures.

Line loss solutions

Solutions such as refrigerated superconducting transmission lines that will provide zero resistance are being worked on; but these are complex, expensive and some way off.

Line loss is another great reason home grid connect solar power systems make sense. While a grid connect inverter, the box that converts DC voltage from solar panels into AC voltage for use by your appliances, isn’t 100% efficient; it’s still greener than your local  very environmentally unfriendly coal fired power station, nuclear power plant – or even a renewable energy based facility such as a wind or solar farm located some distance away in my opinion.

While I’m still a big a supporter of utility-scale solar and wind farms, for line loss and other reasons, I would much rather see government putting their renewable energy rebate and subsidy dollars behind getting solar panels on the roofs of homes and commercial buildings. The rooftops in any town or city are a terribly under-utilized resource for power generation and rain water harvesting. (Solar) power to the people!

However, even with subsidies, we all can’t afford solar panels on our roof, so by reducing our electricity consumption in our home or business by addressing such issues as standby power, it not only keeps a few extra bucks in our pockets; it also helps minimize this hidden electricity consumption that impacts heavily on our environment.