The United States power grid began in 1882 when Thomas Edison opened Pearl Street Station. From there, our power grid has endured for over a century.
Despite this, many Americans need to understand how the electrical grid works. For example, “phase shift” is a term the average person may be unfamiliar with.
But phase shifts are critical for transformers sending electricity to businesses and homes. Keep reading to learn more about phase shifting and power transformers. We’ll explain both and their relationship to each other.
What is a Phase Shift?
Phase shifts are highly technical. What you’ll read in this article is a very simplified explanation. A phase shift is when two electrical wavelengths share the same frequency and amplitude but don’t synchronize.
Another way to look at this is phase shifted waves measure the same but don’t move simultaneously. Phase angle measures the difference between how much farther ahead or behind one wavelength is of another.
What is an Alternating Current?
The US power grid uses AC (alternating currents) primarily because it can transmit power over long distances cheaply and efficiently. But first, we need to explain a few things, so you get the complete picture of phase shifts.
Let’s start with electrical currents. An electrical current is a stream of charged particles moving through a conductive space.
The second thing to clarify is that AC occasionally changes direction. This means the electricity sometimes flows forward or backward. This “electrical flexibility” is what enables phase shifting.
What is a Power Transformer?
Power transformers are voltage control devices that move and distribute electricity. Voltage is the force needed to push the current through a conductor.
A power transformer can “step up” or “step down” voltage. A step-up transformer increases how much pressure pushes the current. Step-down transformers lower the voltage needed for power output.
Phase Shifting Transformers
There is a difference between a regular transformer and a phase-shifting one. Phase-shifting transformers (PSTs) are designed to control active power flow. A typical transformer helps get energy where it needs to be.
Active (or authentic) power is how much energy an AC system has to perform work. Apparent power is the total amount of electricity moving from the power source to the load.
Phase shift in power transformers allows technicians to control where usable active power goes more directly. This is useful because the United States electrical grid is old and overrun.
PSTs don’t increase powerline capacity. But they can transfer energy from overloaded lines. Using more PSTs can help increase energy grid flexibility and longevity.
Why Understanding Phase Shift Matters
Understanding phase shifts help us better comprehend AC systems and power transformers. Knowing how these things work lets us outfit our electrical grid with new technologies that safely provide energy.