A load curve is a chart used by engineers and power producers to show how much electricity customers utilize during a given period of time. When looking at the graph, time usually is placed on the horizontal axis, and load is placed on the vertical axis. This data can be used to predict power trends, which allows an area to build and connect sufficient power generators for peak demand periods. Types of power generators vary depending on the resources in a geographic area. Load curves can be calculated in different ways depending on the needs of the electrical suppliers.
Daily, monthly and yearly load curves are used by power stations to determine the amount of generators needed. Daily load curves look at a 24-hour period of time to find the load requirements every half-hour or hour. A monthly curve records load changes during a one month time period versus the number of days recorded, and a yearly load curve establishes the variations in power requirements throughout one year based upon the monthly load variations. The highest point on a load curve is the maximum demand at a given point in time. The area under a curve is the amount of units that were generated during that period of time.
A load curve can also be calculated based on the types of power being utilized in a system. This type of graph breaks down the power distribution according to the electric demand technology being used. Graphs looking at each type of electric technology are much more data- and labor-intensive than those that do not break down things into such small segments, but they can be helpful because of increased accuracy. Load curves calculated using this method can also look at daily, yearly and monthly supplies for each type of technology. Curves are sometimes prepared that break down the different population segments utilizing power, such as commercial, residential, industrial, hospitals, street lights and entertainment.
Different power stations can be connected in different ways throughout the year in order to meet the demand for power in an area. Types of power generators include nuclear, steam, hydro and gas turbine. The most efficient power generators are used during the highest peak demand times for power, which is based on the information gleaned from the load curve. Engineers use complicated formulas to calculate the loads curves, which in turn determine which method of supplying power is best at a given point in time.