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I've read several posts with questions about electric grids.  I'm hoping that this can help new players get up to speed quickly and manage their electricity.  I chose a completely random Terra world and blindly accepted the first three dupes, so there is nothing special with the map


The Simple Circuit

Lets start with some basics:  Each electric circuit can have: a producer, a consumer, and power storage.  These are connected by wires of varying capabilities.  Take, for example, Dupe's First Grid.


First circuit:


A little more complex variant:


This has all the basic essentials.  A battery, a generator, and a couple of consumers.  The dupes run on the manual generator until the battery is fully charged.  The oxygen diffuser and research station draw power from the battery as they operate.  Eventually the battery needs charging again, and a dupe hops on the wheel.  Every circuit will be built on these fundamentals.

One important part of the above circuits: There is a battery AND a generator on the circuit. Without an energy storage device such as a battery, a generator will run continuously on a circuit.  Here I disconnected one wire and even though no one is using the rock crusher, the dupes will continue to run on the wheel.



This applies for ALL generators.  Unless you know that a generator is going to run continuously, you should always build it with a battery to control the generator.  This leads in to our second circuit, using a generator that operates on fuel instead of dupe power:




With a regular battery, generators that use fuel will run continuously until they run out of fuel, regardless of the state of the battery.  A coal generator will be refueled if the charge level on the battery drops below a certain point (50% default).  A generator with piped fuel (Hydrogen, Natural Gas, Petroleum) will run as long as there is fuel.  So it is highly recommended to always use some sort of automation to control your generator.  The easiest, by far, is to use a smart battery.  When signal is green, the generator runs.  A smart battery will stop sending a green signal when it reaches the 'high' threshold point.  It will turn green again when it reaches the 'low' threshold.

You can use smart batteries to control generators in various ways.  For example, you can have your coal generator set to 99/70, a natural gas generator set to 99/60, and a hydrogen generator set to 70/30.  As long as power demands are low, only the coal generator will run.  During high load times, so will the natural gas generator.  The hydrogen generator will only kick in during peak times, and only long enough to get the batteries up to 70%.  However, with that much power, you run the risk of burning out your power grid.  This is where the different types of wires and transformers come in handy.


Power and Load:

Lets start with a simple example that also has a problem:




In the first case, the dupes will always run on their hamster wheels.  Continually.  As far as the wheels are concerned, there is no power storage, so power is needed on a continuous basis to operate the consumers.  The coal generator will never run, and two dupes will always be unavailable to help build your base.  There are two fixes: 1) Remove the hamster wheels, or 2) add a battery.  In my second example, I added a battery.  In this second case, the wheels will only be used if power demands are higher than the coal generator can deal with.

The fix I used in the second image also introduces a new problem: The potential burnout of my power grid.  Clearly one coal generator will not stress your wires by itself.  Combined with the two hamster wheels, they could -- but that isn't the problem.  Batteries in ONI are somewhat ideal.  There is no power lost while charging (100 joules in, 100 joules out), and they can charge and discharge at any rate.  So, the big battery on the 'small' side of the transformer (as shown in the second image above) CAN lead to burnout if the consumers draw their maximum potential of 1046 watts.  A more obvious case would be trying to run a metal refinery on regular wire using batteries.  The batteries will definitely provide the 1200 watts of power, but the wires can only handle a 100 watt load and will therefore burn out.

Wires will burn out because of the total load on the wire, as calculated by its consumers, not because of the total power available.  So charging a battery will not burn out a wire, no matter how fast it happens.  Discharging a battery might burn out a circuit, depending on how it is set up.  It all depends on how much load the consumers put on the wire.  If the current load goes above the limits of the wire, it may burn out.  The potential load is the total sum of the producers on the circuit.  




For example:



Here I have 3 coal generators running simultaneously to charge a single smart battery.  Each generator produces 600 watts of power, so three of them combined is 1800 watts.  Not too shabby!  However, regular wire is only rated for 1000 watts.  The generators are producing 800 watts more power than the rating of the wire!  However, as stated above, batteries don't count as consumers.  They take whatever power is "extra" until they are full.  The transformer in the image is connected to my main grid.  It has a rating of 1kw.  This means that it will only ever draw 1kw of power, regardless of how much power is used on the other grids.  If I was running two aquatuners on my main grid, the generators will still never burn out the wire they're on because only 1kw can go past the transformer.  It is useful to think of transformers as "load limiters" because in ONI, that is exactly what they do. 

Transformers also act to isolate a circuit.  The "low" side knows nothing about the "high" side, and the "high" side only knows how much power is necessary to keep the transformer charged.  A common method is to set up a "main power grid" for distributing power around the base. Transformers connect from the main grid to the actual consumers, letting you use cheap wires most of the time.

Here are some examples:




The first example connects each generator directly to the main grid.  The second uses a transformer to connect one (or more!) generators to the grid.

To sumarize: The load of a circuit is calculated by looking only at the consumers.  Producers (generators) and storage (batteries) do not count.  Transformers can be used to limit the load of a circuit, and to isolate a circuit, letting you use cheaper wire and components


Higher Concepts:

You can, of course, use these concepts to develop much more complex circuits.  One method often talked about on the forum is battery switching, such as discussed in these threads: 

This is not a complete list.. its just the first two I came across.

The basic idea is that since batteries don't count towards your load, you can charge them as fast as you like.  Using automation, you can switch a battery between generator and consumer.  When connected to the generators, the batteries charge as fast as you need.  When connected to the consumers, only the load on the consumer circuit is visible.  This allows you to do some really powerful things.

For example, you can transfer 25kw or more power from one side of your base to the other using regular wire.  You can run regular wire close to an aquatuner, then switch to conductive or heavi-watt.

One thing to be aware of, however, is that transformers count as consumers.  Below I have created a circuit that draws 2kw from the main grid.  The generators are behind a large transformer that is capable of transferring 4kw of power.  In this particular instance, the generators aren't even running, yet the wire is overloaded and will burn out.




As far as the circuit is concerned, the "high" side of a transformer counts as a consumer for the load seen on the "low" side of the transformer.  In the next image, I have switched out the large transformer for a small one that is limited to 1kw.



There are some interesting things to notice about the two images.  First, you'll notice that the burnout was occurring at the generators, not the consumer grid.  That is because the total load of the consumer grid was only about 500 watts.  The rest of the 1500 watts was going to charging the battery.  Remember, they don't count!  So the full 2kw of load was applied only to the main power grid (heavi-watt wire) through the two small transformers.  The large transformer also applies this 2kw load to the wire on its high side -- so the regular wire at the generators burns out.  Also, if you look at the two small transformers on the right, you'll see that the top has both numbers white at 200J, while the bottom has one green 0J and one 200J.  This is because in the second image they're not receiving enough power.  The main grid (heavi-watt wires) do not have enough power available to give both small transformers their requested 1000 watts.  Instead what happens is that each tick alternates, round-robin, between the available consumers (in this case the two transformers), providing 200 Joules of power.  So in tick 1, the first transformer gets 200 Joules of power.  In tick 2, the second gets 200 Joules, while the first transfers its 200 Joules to the battery.  This suggests that electric circuits are processed 5 times per second.

I hope this helps new players understand ONI's electrical system a little better.  I've also included the game save for anyone that wants to play around.  If anyone has further questions, tag me in the comments and I'll do my best to answer it.

**Edit: Forgot to attach save:  Electric City 34.sav

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I'm definitely sure the time you've spent to write this will be very valuable to many new players ! Thanks for them ! Don't you think it deserves a slot into the ONIversity list that has been made lastly ? Would be a shame to lose those valuable topics into ONI's forum winding...

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