Very cool explanatory:

With over 160,000 miles of transmission lines, the U.S. power grid is designed to handle natural and man-made disasters, as well as fluctuations in demand. How does the system work? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

Category: Energy, Technology, Video

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8 Responses to “How Does the U.S. Power Grid Work?”

  1. Francois says:

    I wonder where we are in the debate about “smart grid”. All we hear about is budget cuts and austerity (for the 99%, of course!!) but are we going to, like, invest again, in the future of this country?

  2. tradeking13 says:

    Need to make the power grid part of the Department of Defense. That way it will get some money spent on upgrading it.

  3. patfla says:

    This would (or will) be an interesting and important addition to the US grid.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tres_Amigas_SuperStation

    So what’s the current (heh) state of the project? At the bottom of the wikipedia article:

    “In 2013, two key announcements confirmed the ongoing progress of the project, and an expected commercial load date of 2016.[13]”

    So why do you need this step up and down in power lines? Well that’s basically Tesla vs. Edison. AC vs DC. Current and voltage are in an sense equivalent according Ohm’s Low: V = IR where V = voltage, I = current and R = resistance.

    The thing is this: by stepping way up the voltage, the current comes down (mediated by resistance) – but – there’s a fraction of the same power loss if you transmit largely via voltage as opposed to current.

    That’s the short answer.

    So why then do you have these powerful long-distance DC transmission lines? That’s part of the long answer.

    • kaleberg says:

      The short answer about DC long lines is that AC current sloshes around. It alternates. DC current just flows. It’s direct. With all that AC current sloshing around, sometimes in loops, sometimes meeting at vertices, you can get serious waves that will shut down part, or even all, of the system. It’s like when three people try to change places on a row boat. It’s much worse than if just one person moves at a time. If you put in a DC link, the electricity doesn’t slosh as much, and that keeps electricity from spilling out and causing a mess. It’s not exactly true, but it’s a short, useful analogy.

  4. dsawy says:

    As a retired EE, I view presentations like this with either disappointment or annoyance. There’s so much more detail that the public and policymakers should know, but won’t, because they lack the intellect and mathematical background to even begin to understand the issues at play.

  5. bear_in_mind says:

    I think there’s no doubt that a strategic power grid is necessary, but there’s so much inefficiency in transmitting energy across long distances that to my mind, the long-view approach to the problem is crafting a much more distributed energy generation strategy.

    Foremost in any plan is picking the proverbial ‘low hanging fruit’ which is bolstering energy efficiency within the existing structure. Basic weatherproofing, energy insulation, low-E windows would make a substantial dent in the needs for energy generation.

    Replacing a couple single pane aluminum framed windows with dual-pane low-E models has moderated the real world indoor temperature variation by 5-7 degrees regardless of external cold or heat.

    Then America ought to treat distributed generation (as TradeKing13 alluded to) as a DOD / homeland security issue. Solar, wind, fuel cell sources becoming common place in each neighborhood would be a tremendous boon to ‘securing’ access to reliable power and curbing consumption of carbon-based fuels.

    Today is yesterday’s tomorrow, so there’s no time like the present for America to kick-start our future.

  6. patfla says:

    It occurred to me that if I wanted to do a top-down search at a single site as regards the cusp between theoretical and practical electric power in the US, a good place to start might be EPRI.

    http://www.epri.com/Pages/Default.aspx

    There are a lot of things to like about EPRI even short of electric power: para-public institution; long history and track record (compared to modern notions of tech history that is); and it’s in the Bay Area. Sorry – 2 out of 3 of those things would be things to instinctively distrust according to one side of the current social discourse.

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