How We Make Electricity
The Barbados Light & Power Company converts fuel oil into clean, invisible electricity energy and delivers it to the consumer. Each link in the chain from power source to you, the consumer, is a specialised technical process.
The steps are:
Electric power at the generating plant is produced by a rotating shaft on which is mounted a powerful electromagnet. The shaft turns inside a cylindrical iron shell called a stator. The electromagnet, acting inside a field of wire coils in the stator, produces electricity. The bigger the electromagnet and the stator field, the more electric power can be generated. To turn the shaft, mechanical force is required. Light and Power obtains this force from diesel engines or by burning fuel oil and natural gas to boil water, producing steam at high pressure. The steam power rotates a turbine which is connected to the generator shaft.
The company's gas turbine generator uses an engine similar to aircraft jet engines to turn the generator shaft.
The development of the power transformer in the 1880s made it possible to locate generating plants miles away from the area where the electricity is being used. We actually use electricity at relatively low voltages but it cannot be transmitted very far at low voltages without most of the energy being lost along the way.
A transformer is used near the generating plant to step up the voltage for transmission, typically to 24,000 volts. The voltage is then stepped down at a substation to a lower voltage for distribution to consumers.
Large industries often use power at much higher voltages than do residential customers, and transformers make it possible to serve different types of customers at the voltage they require.
From the step-down substations around the island, power is moved through distribution lines to points near homes and businesses. Near the point of use, voltage is stepped down in a small pole-top transformer to the voltages used in homes, either 115 or 230 volts.
Providing you with good electric service requires unusually large investments in equipment - much larger, in proportion to sales revenue, than most businesses. Light and Power's net investment in plant is over $500 million Bds, to serve over 100,000 customers.