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Utility Distribution Systems and Equipment


Foundational course for professionals who need to know how electrical distribution and utility operations work

Instructor: Tim Taylor

Subjects: Solar: Solar Utility Interconnection, Utilities: Electrical Distribution

Length: 6 modules

Student Rating

9.1 out of 10 (view ratings)
19 students have taken this course


This is a professional development course for electric utility industry professionals to learn the fundamentals of electric utility distribution system operations.

It's a more in-depth course that builds on the basics learned in "A Virtual Tour of Electric Utility Distribution Equipment".

It's also a great opportunity for solar companies to learn the language utilities speak so your sales team can be more trustworthy and creative. A deep understanding of utility operations can be a competitive advantage for in projects where utility distribution operations intersect.

Ready To Sign Up Today? Click Here to Enroll

Preview the Course Material

Check out a free preview of the course by clicking the button below. This is a live assignment from the course and will give you a good sense for what the course will be like.

Free Preview - Welcome to Course from Tim
Flexible Online Training for Industry Professionals

This online course is self-paced. You can begin instantly upon enrollment.

Access Information and Build Your Training Library

After enrolling, the course materials will remain in your account and be accessible 12 months (1 year) after enrollment. Access can be extended beyond 1 year with a monthly membership. Rewatch videos and review assignments as many times as you want. View updates the instructor makes to the course as the industry advances. Return to your course anytime with online access from anywhere in the world.

Earn A Certificate of Completion

When you complete this course you are eligible for a certificate of completion from HeatSpring. You can download your certificate as soon as you have completed all of the course requirements. Students can easily share their verified certificates on their LinkedIn profiles using our LinkedIn integration.

The Utility Distribution Systems & Equipment course provides an excellent overview of the topic for those who do not have a EE or PE background. The instructor delves into topics at a sufficient level which should encourage the student to learn more about on their own. I highly recommend the course to those who have to deal with distribution systems in the industry.

- John Sasso, U.S. Light Energy

Tim's style is laid back but information filled. He is an expert who is experienced and comfortable with the subject.

- William Noyes, Noyes Engineering

+ Read more student ratings and reviews for this course


Tim Taylor

Electric Distribution Academy

Mr. Taylor is Owner and Managing Director of Electric Distribution Academy, and has over 30 years of experience in electric distribution planning, design, operations, and asset management. He also has experience in business development and technical sales support in ADMS, asset management systems, and overcurrent protection products. Mr. Taylor has led and...[more]

Free Preview - Welcome to Course from Tim

Course Outline

Welcome - Orientation Materials

This course is self-paced, so you don’t need to be logged in at any specific time. You can complete the material whenever is convenient and work ahead or catch up if you fall behind. The course discussion board is a great place to interact with other students and ask questions. Expect to dedicate a minimum of 5 hours per week to the course. The instructor-led session runs for the posted dates and you will receive weekly emails to keep you on pace. Course materials will remain in your account with minimum guaranteed access for 12 months (1 year) after the session ends. Please review the orientation materials and introduce yourself on the discussion board.

  • Introduction to HeatSpring (Video - 01:25 minutes) Preview
  • Information about this course (Text)
  • Set up email notifications and your student profile (Text)
  • Introduce yourself on the discussion board (Text)
  • Welcome to Course from Tim (Video - 14:45 minutes) Preview
Module 1 - Serving Loads and Connecting Distributed Energy Resources

In the first week we look at understanding basic drivers of utility distribution system design and operation. 1) In Distribution System Objectives, we discuss how distribution systems should serve loads with adequate voltage and frequency; meet reliability, resiliency and power quality goals; provide a platform for DER; be designed and operated with a primary emphasis on safety; meet environmental and aesthetics goals; and be designed with the lowest total owning cost. 2) In Distribution System Loads, we look at impacts of customer loads on system design and operations; resistive, inductive, and capacitive components of load; demand, energy, and power factor; demand factor and coincidence factor; different types of utility customers; customer load profiles; and customer classes and class load profiles. 3) In 3) Distributed Energy Resources (DER) on distribution, we look at the common types of DER on utility systems and utility challenges with DER on distribution.

  • Read: Circuit Basics (Resource)
  • Optional Reading: Basic Electrical and Electronic Concepts (Resource)
  • Distribution System Objectives (Download .pdf)
  • Watch: Distribution System Loads (Video - 48:26 minutes) Preview
  • Watch: Distributed Energy Resources on Distribution Systems (Video - 30:15 minutes)
  • Quiz: Connecting Loads and DER on Distribution Systems (Quiz)
  • Week 1 Presentations (Download .pdf)
Module 2 - Transmitting and Transforming Electric Power

In this week, we discuss the basic equipment for Transmitting and Transforming electric power. 1) In Overhead Lines and Underground Cables, we cover overhead line construction types, common distribution conductor materials, considerations in overhead conductor selection, principal overhead conductor characteristics, underground cable applications, cable insulation types, application considerations of distribution cables, and overhead versus underground distribution. 2) In Transformers, we look at the function of transformers, the application of transformers in power systems, substation transformers, three-phase and single-phase distribution transformers, and wye and delta configurations of three-phase transformers.

  • Overhead Conductors and Underground Cables (Video - 39:22 minutes)
  • Watch: Overhead Line Conductors (Resource)
  • Watch: Underground Cable Splicing (Resource)
  • Watch: Manhattan Manhole (Resource)
  • Transformers (Video - 20:16 minutes)
  • Watch: Padmounted Transformer (Resource)
  • Overhead Conductors, Underground Cables, and Transformers (Quiz)
  • Week 2 Presentations (Download .pdf)
Module 3 - Distribution System Architectures

In Week 3, we look at basic types and components of system architectures. We look at distribution substations, distribution feeders, nominal voltage levels, three-phase and single-phase circuits, and typical circuit loadings. We discuss feeder primary architectures, including radial, radial with ties, and looped. In Secondary Systems, we look at secondary voltage levels for residential and commercial, and distributed secondary networks. We discuss the impacts of overhead and underground on architectures, and dual feeds with transfer switches for customers with high reliability requirements.

  • Distribution System Architectures - Part 1 (Video - 29:48 minutes) Preview
  • Quickly Read: Design Guide for Rural Substations pp. 41 - 52 (Resource)
  • Read: Design Guide for Rural Substations - Section 4.3 Only (Resource)
  • Distribution System Architectures - Part 2 (Video - 38:31 minutes)
  • Distribution System Architectures (Quiz)
  • Week 3 Presentations (Download .pdf)
Module 4 - Voltage Monitoring and Control

The focus in Week 4 is Voltage Monitoring and Control on utility distribution systems, and how reactive power, voltage control, and real power losses are inter-related. We cover reactive power requirements and sources, distribution voltage standards, voltage drop and causes, and the causes of real power losses. We look at the equipment that is applied - load tap changers, voltage regulators, and fixed and switched shunt capacitors - to improve voltage, supply reactive power, and reduce real power losses. We also cover the impacts of DER and particularly solar power, on voltage and reactive power.

  • Voltage Monitoring and Control - Lecture 1 (Video - 48:15 minutes)
  • Watch: Voltage Regulator Controller (Resource)
  • Voltage Monitoring and Control - Lecture 2 (Video - 22:35 minutes)
  • Voltage Monitoring and Control - Lecture 3 (Video - 29:02 minutes)
  • Voltage Control and DER - Download and Read pp. 1 - 4 (Resource)
  • Voltage Control and Monitoring (Quiz)
  • Week 4 Presentations (Download .pdf)
Module 5 - Overcurrent Protection

The focus on week 5 is a basic understanding of overcurrent protection on distribution system design and operation. In the first part we take a look at short-circuits, including system faults, their causes, and their impacts. Building on this, we look at the goals of distribution system overcurrent protection, and the application of equipment to accomplish the goals, including circuit breakers, reclosers, sectionalizers, and fuses. A brief overview of the importance and principals of protection coordination is provided.

  • Overcurrent Protection Part 1 (Video - 33:47 minutes)
  • Watch: Spectacular Impacts of Some Faults (Resource)
  • Overcurrent Protection Part 2 (Video - 15:57 minutes)
  • Watch: Operation Explusion Fuse (Resource)
  • Overcurrent Protection Part 3 (Video - 29:44 minutes)
  • Watch: Reclosers Overview from Eaton (Resource)
  • View Distribution Protection Overview (Resource)
  • Week 5 Presentations (Download .pdf)
Module 6 - Distribution System Reliability

In week 6, we look at the important topic of distribution system reliability. The different outage causes on distribution systems is discussed, and the impacts on customers is reviewed. Distribution reliability indices for measuring the impact on customers is discussed, including SAIFI, SAIDI, and CAIDI. An overview of common reliability improvements methods is also covered.

  • Video - Reliability Part 1 (Video - 31:14 minutes)
  • Reading Assignment - Reliability Performance in Sacramento (Resource)
  • Watch: CLECo SCADA (Resource)
  • Reliability Part 2 (Video - 33:15 minutes)
  • Reliability Quiz (Quiz)
  • Week 6 Presentations (Download .pdf)
Feedback and Additional Resources

No matter how great this course is, we know it's just one part of a bigger journey. In this module we'll start thinking about what comes next. You'll provide feedback on the course and learn about additional resources. Don't forget that you'll have access to the course materials for 12 months after the session ends. Feel free to come back as much as you like to continue learning, and please stay in touch. After your year of access expires you can optionally extend access with a HeatSpring Membership.

  • 1 Year of Access to Course Materials (Text)
  • Feedback: 2-minute Exit Survey (Survey)
  • Consider Joining as a HeatSpring Member (Resource)
  • Certificate of Completion: Request a Certificate (Certificate)
Free Preview - Welcome to Course from Tim

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