Three-kilowatt kettles, ad-free television, or why British power engineers watch soap operas at work


    Since 1945, every British tank has equipment for making tea. One of the representatives of the Boiling Vessel.

    " War of currents " ended not in favor of Edison camp. The world chose to transfer energy in alternating electric current circuits, and to receive constant energy from it by rectification if necessary. To transmit energy over long distances, high-voltage lines are needed, and they learned to raise the DC voltage without significant losses and mechanisms with moving parts only by the sixties of the last century. At that time, the question of choosing the nature of the energy networks of the future no longer stood.

    To transmit AC to a distance, its voltage is increased by transformers to tens, hundreds, thousandskilovolt and put on power lines. Upon arrival to the consumer, the transformers lower the voltage to the desired values. And only if some kind of electronics requires a constant current, they resort to current rectifiers. High-voltage direct current lines still exist, but most often for the transfer of energy through submarine cables, where a high cable capacity would cause high losses in the reactive power of the alternating current.

    So, the world is entangled with power transmission towers. But production and transmission are only half the trouble. The operating mode of the power grid is determined not by the power plant, but by the consumer. In some ways, the situation can be compared with the client-server architecture of websites: a large site should have enough servers, or some users will not wait for the pages to load. In energy networks, the situation is complicated by the inability to directly put somewhere the excess produced or take the missing at a critical moment. At any time, balance must be maintained.

    If there is insufficient energy produced, the frequency of the alternating current will go down. If the power plants are underloaded, and the network has excess energy, then the frequency increases. Around the same engine with excessive or insufficient load spins the wheels of the car slower or faster, respectively. Typically, the frequency fluctuates around the nominal in tenths and hundredths of a hertz. For example, since yesterday fluctuated frequency of the AC in the Unified Energy System of Russia.



    It is logical to combine all power plants and all consumers with one power system. This will make it easier to “smooth out” the peaks and dips in consumption. In this case, all the electric generators of the power grid (that is, regions, countries, or even several countries) must work synchronously, at the same frequency and phase. Desynchronization means that the generators of power plants will start working against each other, wearing out power lines with losses in the form of useless reactive power. In general, any mistake means that consumers - from important industries to ordinary people - run the risk of being left without light.

    There are two methods to increase the incident frequency of the current in the power system: either add current producers or disconnect the load. The load parameters are determined by the consumer, and disconnecting consumers for the dispatcher is one of the extreme measures. For example, the standard of the “System Operator of the Unified Energy System” “ Rules for Preventing the Development and Elimination of Violations of the Normal Mode of the Electrical Part of Power Systems ” (STO 59012820.29.240.007-2008) allows consumers to be switched off when the frequency reaches below 49.80 hertz and reserves are exhausted.

    Peak power plants are used to balance the load, that is, those that help cope with the sharp increase in energy consumption for short periods of time. This means that such a power plant must develop full capacity in minutes or stop.

    Starting a conventional steam turbine is a slow process, it takes several hours . Therefore , gas turbine , conventional and accumulating hydroelectric stations help in peak smoothing . There are also semi-peak installations that have a limited limit for maneuvers.


    And in the arsenal of power engineers there is knowledge when to expect a big load. It is dictated by statistics and ordinary everyday observations. At six in the morning, a movement begins in the cities: people get up, turn on the lights, cook, get to jobs on electric vehicles. In the evening they return home along the lit streets, turn on consumer electronics and get ready for bed. After midnight, a night failure occurs, when the main consumers of energy systems are two- (rarely) and three-shift production.



    Light on Foggy Albion


    So why this theory? In addition to the usual load peaks in the United Kingdom, a unique situation has formed that is unlikely to be found anywhere else in the world. It is associated with several factors.

    As in Russia, in household sockets in the UK there is an alternating current with a frequency of 50 hertz and a voltage of 230 volts. The sockets themselves are slightly different from other European standards . The Type G is integrated fuse and earthing, sockets are polarized, that is, you know, on what contacts "phase" and "zero".

    Developed power is the product of current and voltage. In the United Kingdom, heating appliances are possible that can boil water faster.than in the USA: 230 volts and 13 amperes (2990 watts) per socket versus 120 volts and 15 amperes (1800 watts). If the British adopted the American standards, then many types of household electric heating appliances would hardly have spread.

    The stereotype draws the British as a big lover of tea. It is less known that the British most often use electric kettles, and do not heat water with gas. It is absolutely unacceptable to wait until the water boils. British electric kettles develop good power. The twenty best-selling on Amazon.co.uk 15 boil water with a capacity of 3,000 watts. For comparison: in Russia, teapots are often two-kilowatt, three-kilowatt do not recommend buying because of fears of poor wiring.

    In addition to tea, Britain has a developed television system with its own characteristics. The British prefer only a few large channels. Although newcomers select viewers, large networks retain leadership. In 2015, 15 channels had almost 65% of the entire audience. Audience distribution data for 2008. The oldest and largest in Britain is the BBC broadcaster, sponsored by a three-quarter tax on television . Each of the British families who watch or record TV shows must receive a television license. You need to pay for a license annually: 145.50 pounds (≈11 thousand ₽) for a color TV, 49 pounds (≈3.8 thousand ₽) for black and white. And let only every tenth




    The Briton agrees with the size of the tax, but this money adds some unique features to British television.

    There is no commercial advertising on BBC One . Transmission is not interrupted. When they end, they can show several videos about other programs or messages about charity campaigns. The middle of the series does not make sense to break off at an interesting point, so that the audience does not switch somewhere else during the commercial break.

    As a result, British power engineers are forced to watch the BBC and urgently adjust grid requests. At the end of programs that are not interrupted by advertising, the British immediately turn on electric kettles and open refrigerators. The phenomenon is called TV pickup .


    Poor thing every night you need to watch Eastenders .

    Horse races take place in the evening, for example, at nine, when several popular TV shows immediately end or go to advertisements on those channels where it exists. A typical leap is a sudden 200-400 megawatts from nowhere, large soap operas promise about 700-800 MW. This is a noticeable peak: in 2007, usually in the evening, England, Scotland and Wales lived at 41,000 megawatts (41 GW).

    But these are just typical cases, the everyday life of a British power grid dispatcher. On July 4, 1990, during a World Cup match between Britain and Germany, penalty shootouts required 2.8 gigawatts of boiling water for tea. On the morning of August 11, 1999, the British showed interest in the solar eclipse, and consumption fell by 500 megawatts. After 11:15 in the morning they returned to their homes and workplaces, consumption grew immediately by 3 gigawatts.

    The royal family’s wedding, athletic competition, a popular series - all this attracts people to the screens at the same time. Then millions of electric kettles are turned on all over Britain, which creates a serious test for the island's power grid. Perhaps in the future, smart kettles that turn on themselves or remotely can solve the problem. In the meantime, TV pickup is a way to watch TV at work for British power engineers and another fun stereotype about tea in the United Kingdom.

    UK national grid status

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