2013-06-20

Co.Exist

Everything You Need To Know About The Electric Grid, In Whimsical Form

This video explains how we keep the lights on in a way that won’t make you want to go to sleep.

If you confuse your transformer from your interconnection, this witty and informative grid primer is for you.

"The grid is always living in the now," it says. Some lessons: You need to step the power up and down all the time. AC current! Transformers rule! It’s all there. And there are three independent systems that manage electricity in the country: the "Western Connection," "Eastern Interconnection," and the "Texas Interconnection" (which is funny: "Don’t mess with our interconnection!").

The video is from "Burn: An Energy Journal," a radio program distributed by American Public Media.

Of course, the piece goes on to advocate for updating the antiquated system with a smart grid. That is, a system encrusted with sensors; more sensitive to demand; overlaid with digital communication; decentralized ("Just as Texas has its own power grid"); backed up with "mega battery arrays" (to mitigate intermittency); and with more underground cabling (to reduce outages).

It’s a reminder of the centrality of the grid to the future, and a good thing to watch if you have no idea what makes your lights turn on.

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1 Comments

  • Guest

    Well put together, but misses the mark on a couple of points:

    1. Wind farms are not necessarily shut down when demand is low. In many jurisdictions, other generators can ramp up and down to meet demand.

    2. The analogy of having many microgrids like so many Texases (ERCOTs, for those who like acronyms) isn't quite right. Much of what defines an interconnection/grid is, somewhat confusingly, that it has few connections to the other grids. What we need is more connections, not fewer. Having more connections allows the electric system to be more flexible, and use even more intermittent generators like wind and solar.