Electrical systems crash course – Introduction



Having some parents pressuring you into engineering? Wondering what is electrical engineering or how the grid actually works? Eyeing that job at Hydro Quebec? Look no further!

In the following weeks i will give you a solid crash course into electrical systems. From conductors to transformers, from network design to grounding, i will take you through all these different aspects of the profession. While it will not turn you into a full fledged professional engineer, it will give you an idea of what lies ahead should you choose this career path. For seasoned professional engineers, you might learn something new as i hope to learn from you as well.

This blog post is an overview of the material i will cover in the next weeks. To make this more palletable, i will also add charts and infographics in the weeks to come, as an image is indeed worth a thousand words.

Now that the Charbonneau Commission is behind us, it is time to rebuild our profession!

1- Conductors & Insulators

high voltage insulator


  • What is an electrical insulating material
  • What is an electrical conductive material
  • Resistivity and conductivity
  • Resistance and voltage drop in electrical conductors
  • Air and electric arcs
  • Arcing distance
  • Arcing distance and electrical clearances
  • Arc flash dangers
  • Dielectrical strength
  • Insulator tracking

2- Circuit breakers

circuit breaker


  • Electrical contacts and arcs
  • Definition of a circuit breaker
  • Circuit breakers vs fuses
  • Types of circuit breakers
  • Common insulating material inside circuit breaker
  • Air Circuit Breaker types
  • Current that opens circuit breakers
  • Single line diagram
  • Electrical fault discrimination
  • Comments about fault discrimination

3- Grounding

grounding mat


  • Purpose of grounding system
  • Grounded vs ungrounded systems
  • Touch potential
  • Step potential
  • How to mitigate touch and step potentials
  • Copper ground rod
  • Substation grounding system
  • Transmission grounding substation

4- Network design

plans and specifications


  • Typical electric network
  • Radial circuit
  • Ring circuit
  • Ring main unit configuration
  • Ring main unit operation in distribution systems
  • Ring configuration for transmission systems

5- Low voltage systems

low voltage systems


  • Transport and distribution voltage levels
  • Industrial and domestic voltage levels
  • Industrial network
  • Domestic network

6- Electrical cables

electrical cables


  • Distribution cables
  • Transmission cables
  • Design and installation
  • Single core vs multicore
  • Electrical treeing

7- Overhead lines

overhead lines


  • Purpose of transport lines
  • Transport vs distribution
  • Clearance levels
  • Tower Design
  • Tower insulators
  • Types of transmission towers
  • Conductor strands and binding

8- Transformers

oil and forced air transformer


  • Purposes of transformer
  • Single phase vs three phases
  • Single phase transformer design and operation
  • Characteristics of a single phase transformer
  • Power rating of a transformer
  • Current transformer or CT
  • Three phases transformer design and operation
  • Characteristics of three phases transformer
  • Cooling of transformers
  • Tap changing



As you have seen through this post, the professional electrical engineer body of knowledge is vast. From power generation to overhead transmission lines all the way down to the power outlet, we have a tendency of taking electric power for granted. Next post will be on electrical conductors and insulators.

These posts also seek to rebuild the shattered image of the professional engineer in Quebec, following the Charbonneau Commission. Although tainted by a few rotten apples and some politicians, the perception of corruption still lingers about the title of professional engineer. Now that it is behind us, it is time to rebuild and make sure it never happens again.

4 Replies to “Electrical systems crash course – Introduction”

    1. Hi Lowest Price,

      Thanks for the comment! As soon as i’m done with the fire alarm topic, i’ll go back to the electrical distribution systems. Stay tuned!



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