Electronic – Why are the power transmission/distribution systems AC and not DC


Is there a good reason why we are not in the process of completely converting our electrical transmission system to DC? The main reason for using AC on the grid (no offense Tesla, I love you man) was to enable transformation to higher voltages in order to drop line losses (\$P=IE=I^2R\$) and if the conductor size remains the same, when \$E\$ is increased in the equation \$E=IR\$ then \$I\$ must necessarily decrease, in turn decreasing losses as the square of \$I\$). But now we have the ability to transform AC (at all thermal, hydro and wind generators) and DC (at solar generators) to any level of DC we desire and transmit, usually to residential or commercial loads which tend to use DC anyway. If need be it can be converted back to AC at industrial loads (motors usually).

In this way many transformers, capacitors, spacing issues, etc. can be eliminated from the electrical grid, increasing efficiencies dramatically, and in turn decreasing emissions and costs.

Am I missing something here?

Best Answer

There are several reasons. One: power loss in a wire is I^2 * R. Therefore it is better to transmit power at very high voltage and low current. AC is much more easily boosted to high voltage (no electronics are needed). To boost industrial loads using silicon electronics is not practical.

Another is ease of switching under load. If you turn off a load connected to DC, the arcing at the switch due to wire inductance and load inductance becomes problematic. This forces DC switches to be more robust.

The 60 Hz noise created by transformers is much less than the switching noise that would be created by all the electronics required to buck and boost DC and then convert it to AC at point of load as you propose.