I'm having a difficult time understanding precisely how alternating current works in relationship to ground (earth). I have spent hours trying to learn online and I get conflicting explanations. So lets start with a power plant. A coil of wire is rotated in between magnets, inducing a voltage. Does the generator have to be connected to ground for there to be a potential difference, or is their a difference and hence a voltage independent of earth? Either way, the hot wires enter a home and power various loads. The neutral wire leaves these loads, and the voltage potential to ground is ideally zero or near zero. Would this not happen if the neutral and ground were not bonded at the main panel of a house? If alternating current switches direction back and forth, but neutral has a zero voltage, then how can it do work when the current is traveling from neutral to hot? In other words, besides our optional but wise use of ground for fault safety, is it required as a zero reference, or would there still be a voltage potential between hot and neutral in our electrical system never contacted ground?