Electrical Engineering Basics

Electrical engineering is a field of engineering that generally deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism. The field first became an identifiable occupation in the late nineteenth century after commercialization of the electric telegraph and electrical power supply. It now covers a range of subtopics including power, electronics, control systems, signal processing and telecommunications.
Electrical engineering may or may not include electronic engineering. Where a distinction is made, usually outside of the United States, electrical engineering is considered to deal with the problems associated with large-scale electrical systems such as power transmission and motor control, whereas electronic engineering deals with the study of small-scale electronic systems including computers and integrated circuits. Alternatively, electrical engineers are usually concerned with using electricity to transmit energy, while electronic engineers are concerned with using electricity to transmit information. More recently, the distinction has become blurred by the growth of power electronics.


Power engineering, also called power systems engineering, is a subfield of engineering that deals with the generation, transmission and distribution of electric power as well as the electrical devices connected to such systems including generators, motors and transformers. Although much of the field is concerned with the problems of three-phase AC power - the standard for large-scale power transmission and distribution across the modern world - a significant fraction of the field is concerned with the conversion between AC and DC power as well as the development of specialized power systems such as those used in aircraft or for electric railway networks.

Electric power is the mathematical product of two quantities: current and voltage. These two quantities can vary with respect to time (AC power) or can be kept at constant levels (DC power).
Most refrigerators, air conditioners, pumps and industrial machinery use AC power whereas most computers and digital equipment use DC power (the digital devices you plug into the mains typically have an internal or external power adapter to convert from AC to DC power). AC power has the advantage of being easy to transform between voltages and is able to be generated and utilized by brushless machinery. DC power remains the only practical choice in digital systems and can be more economical to transmit over long distances at very high voltages.
The ability to easily transform the voltage of AC power is important for two reasons: Firstly, power can be transmitted over long distances with less loss at higher voltages. So in power networks where generation is distant from the load, it is desirable to step-up the voltage of power at the generation point and then step-down the voltage near the load. Secondly, it is often more economical to install turbines that produce higher voltages than would be used by most appliances, so the ability to easily transform voltages means this mismatch between voltages can be easily managed.
Solid state devices, which are products of the semiconductor revolution, make it possible to transform DC power to different voltages, build brushless DC machines and convert between AC and DC power. Nevertheless, devices utilizing solid state technology are often more expensive than their traditional counterparts, so AC power remains in widespread use.


Power Engineering deals with the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity as well as the design of a range of related devices. These include transformers, electric generators, electric motors and power electronics.
The power grid is an electrical network that connects a variety of electric generators to the users of electric power. Users purchase electricity from the grid avoiding the costly exercise of having to generate their own. Power engineers may work on the design and maintenance of the power grid as well as the power systems that connect to it. Such systems are called on-grid power systems and may supply the grid with additional power, draw power from the grid or do both.
Power engineers may also work on systems that do not connect to the grid. These systems are called off-grid power systems and may be used in preference to on-grid systems for a variety of reasons. For example, in remote locations it may be cheaper for a mine to generate its own power rather than pay for connection to the grid and in most mobile applications connection to the grid is simply not practical.
Today, most grids adopt three-phase electric power with alternating current. This choice can be partly attributed to the ease with which this type of power can be generated, transformed and used. Often, the power is split before it reaches residential customers whose low-power appliances rely upon single-phase electric power. However, many larger industries and organizations still prefer to receive the three-phase power directly because it can be used to drive highly efficient electric motors such as three-phase induction motors.
Transformers play an important role in power transmission because they allow power to be converted to and from higher voltages. This is important because higher voltages suffer less power loss during transmission. This is because higher voltages allow for lower current to deliver the same amount of power, as power is the product of the two. Thus, as the voltage steps up, the current steps down. It is the current flowing through the components that result in both the losses and the subsequent heating. These losses, appearing in the form of heat, are equal to the current squared times the electrical resistance through which the current flows, so as the voltage goes up the losses are dramatically reduced.
For these reasons, electrical substations exist throughout power grids to convert power to higher voltages before transmission and to lower voltages suitable for appliances after transmission.


Power engineering is a network of interconnected components which convert different forms of energy to electrical energy. Modern power engineering consists of three main subsystems: the generation subsystem, the transmission subsystem, and the distribution subsystem. In the generation subsystem, the power plant produces the electricity. The transmission subsystem transmits the electricity to the load centers. The distribution subsystem continues to transmit the power to the customers.


Generation of electrical power is a process whereby energy is transformed into an electrical form. There are several different transformation processes, among which are chemical, photo-voltaic, and electromechanical. Electromechanical energy conversion is used in converting energy from coal, petroleum, natural gas, uranium, water flow, and wind into electrical energy. Of these, all except the wind energy conversion process take advantage of the synchronous AC generator coupled to a steam, gas or hydro turbine such that the turbine converts steam, gas, or water flow into rotational energy, and the synchronous generator then converts the rotational energy of the turbine into electrical energy. It is the turbine-generator conversion process that is by far most economical and consequently most common in the industry today.
The AC synchronous machine is the most common technology for generating electrical energy. It is called synchronous because the composite magnetic field produced by the three stator windings rotate at the same speed as the magnetic field produced by the field winding on the rotor. A simplified circuit model is used to analyze steady-state operating conditions for a synchronous machine. The phasor diagram is an effective tool for visualizing the relationships between internal voltage, armature current, and terminal voltage. The excitation control system is used on synchronous machines to regulate terminal voltage, and the turbine-governor system is used to regulate the speed of the machine.
The operating costs of generating electrical energy is determined by the fuel cost and the efficiency of the power station. The efficiency depends on generation level and can be obtained from the heat rate curve. We may also obtain the incremental cost curve from the heat rate curve. Economic dispatch is the process of allocating the required load demand between the available generation units such that the cost of operation is minimized.


The electricity is transported to load locations from a power station to a transmission subsystem. Therefore we may think of the transmission system as providing the medium of transportation for electric energy. The transmission system may be subdivided into the bulk transmission system and the sub-transmission system. The functions of the bulk transmission are to interconnect generators, to interconnect various areas of the network, and to transfer electrical energy from the generators to the major load centers. This portion of the system is called "bulk" because it delivers energy only to so-called bulk loads such as the distribution system of a town, city, or large industrial plant. The function of the sub-transmission system is to interconnect the bulk power system with the distribution system.
Transmission circuits may be built either underground or overhead. Underground cables are used predominantly in urban areas where acquisition of overhead rights of way are costly or not possible. They are also used for transmission under rivers, lakes and bays. Overhead transmission is used otherwise because, for a given voltage level, overhead conductors are much less expensive than underground cables.
The transmission system is a highly integrated system. It is referred to the substation equipment and transmission lines. The substation equipment contain the transformers, relays, and circuit breakers. Transformers are important static devices which transfer electrical energy from one circuit with another in the transmission subsystem. Transformers are used to step up the voltage on the transmission line to reduce the power loss which is dissipated on the way. A relay is functionally a level-detector; they perform a switching action when the input voltage (or current) meets or exceeds a specific and adjustable value. A circuit breaker is an automatically-operated electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overload or short circuit. A change in the status of any one component can significantly affect the operation of the entire system. There are three possible causes for power flow limitations to a transmission line. These causes are thermal overload, voltage instability, and rotor angle instability. Thermal overload is caused by excessive current flow in a circuit causing overheating. Voltage instability is said to occur when the power required to maintain voltages at or above acceptable levels exceeds the available power. Rotor angle instability is a dynamic problem that may occur following faults, such as short circuit, in the transmission system. It may also occur tens of seconds after a fault due to poorly damped or undamped oscillatory response of the rotor motion.


The distribution system transports the power from the transmission system to the customer. The distribution systems are typically radial because networked systems are more expensive. The equipment associated with the distribution system includes the substation transformers connected to the transmission systems, the distribution lines from the transformers to the customers and the protection and control equipment between the transformer and the customer. The protection equipment includes lightning protectors, circuit breakers, disconnectors and fuses. The control equipment includes voltage regulators, capacitors, relays and demand side management equipment.

An Electrical machine is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy or vice versa, and changes AC voltage from one level to another level.

Electrical machines are divided into three parts:
A generator is the device that converts mechanical energy at its prime mover to produce constant electrical energy at its output. In more technical words, it is a dynamic electrical energy machine. Generator is classified into two types: AC generator and DC generator.
The basic requirements for a dynamically induced emf to exist are the following: (1) A steady magnetic field (2) A conductor capable of carrying current (3) The conductor to move in the magnetic field

AC Generator

AC generator is the generator that converts mechanical energy at its prime mover into AC electricity.
AC generator is classified into several types:
  • Asynchronous AC generator or induction AC generator, an AC generator whose field current is supplied by magnetic induction into the field windings.
  • Synchronous AC generator, an AC generator whose magnetic field current is provided by a separate DC current source, either external DC source or mounted DC source.

 DC Generator
DC generator is the generator that produces DC power i.e., constant power P=V*I by taking mechanical energy as input. Example of a DC generator is dynamo.


Motor is the device that converts electrical energy at its input to produce mechanical energy. Motor is classified into two types: AC motor and DC motor.

AC motor is the motor that converts AC electrical energy at its input into mechanical energy. AC motor is classified into several types:

  • Asynchronous motor or induction AC motor
  • Synchronous motor
DC motor is the motor that converts DC electricity into mechanical energy. Its main components are stator, rotor, windings (field windings and armature windings) and commutator.
DC motor is classified into five types:
  • Compounded DC motor
  • Permanent magnet DC motor
  • Separately excited DC motor, a DC motor whose field circuit receives power from a separate constant voltage supply.
  • Series DC motor, a DC motor whose field windings consist of relatively few turns and connected in series with the armature circuit.
  • Shunt DC motor, a DC motor whose field circuit receives power directly across the armature terminals.
Losses in DC motor are brush drop losses, core losses, mechanical losses and stray losses.


Transformer is the device that converts AC voltage from one level to another level higher or lower, or even to the same level without changing the frequency. It works based on the principle of mutual induction, so its power remains approximately constant, where as frequency also remains the same.