this month was James Watson, an engineer who spoke about the
National Grid, by whom he was employed. He is the son in law
of W.I. member, Jan Horsnell. It was an open meeting and several
men availed themselves of the opportunity to listen to an expert
on the subject.
James explained that his responsibility was the transmission
of electricity from the power sources, such as the power stations
and the new energy sources, such as wind farms, to the 319 sub
stations run by the six large private companies, and which are
the distributors of the electricity to the whole country. The
map of the National Grid shows clusters of these sub stations
in areas of large conurbations, and industry, particularly in
Wales, London, the West Midlands, the North West and the North
In Victorian times, arc lights, invented by Humphrey Davy and
his assistant, Michael Faraday, replaced the candle power and
gas lighting of earlier times, providing a much brighter source
of light. James demonstrated how the arc lights worked on a
model, with the electric current sparking across a narrow air
gap to produce a very bright light.
The electricity from the sub stations is carried to cables by
the tall, strong frames of the transmission towers - not pylons
- which are visible all over the country. The accompanying tall,
pointed structures act as lightening conductors. It would be
expensive to conceal the cables underground. The cables that
are used these days are made of aluminium, which is cheaper,
lighter and use less space than the original copper cables.
He circulated samples.
James showed us the graphs of the peaks and troughs of electricity
distribution, which have to be balanced over 24 hours, and it
was fascinating to note that these peaks coincided with the
TV adverts and football half times, when we al rush to turn
on the kettles! Special events such as the Royal Wedding have
to be planned in advance, as increases have to be switched 30
The National Grid has been very involved, of course, with the
building of the Olympic Park and here 57 transmission towers
have had to be removed, and all the cables have been put into
miles of tunnels underground.
It was agreed by everyone that it had been a most interesting