What is the U.S. power grid?
Turning on a small reading lamp by your bed is as easy as flipping a switch. But the electricity that powers that light starts miles and miles away, taking a journey through high voltage power lines, transformers and regulators before it reaches your home.
All energy in the U.S. is powered and regulated through the national power grid. This grid controls the flow of energy between power plants, businesses and homes. As the demand for energy increases, the grid operators must constantly keep up. Failing to meet the demand, or an outage at any plants or power lines, means risking a blackout.
How does the power grid work?
If energy is that difficult to balance, what keeps it flowing on hot summer days and frigid winters when usage spikes? The following animation explains how the grid works to power not only your house, but every house on the block, in your city, town, state and beyond at all times of the day.
The future of the power grid
In deregulated areas of Texas, the Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT) serves as the grid operator. ERCOT forecasts electricity usage trends for each season, particularly the summer when energy reserves frequently run low.
As demand continues to increase, the need for a better way to regulate power and utilize green energy more efficiently also rises. In recent years, legislation and attention has turned to the “Smart Grid,” which would make the power grid more resilient and secure through the use of more technology.
Thought has also been given to the idea of a microgrid, which minimizes the distance electricity travels to your home and can operate autonomously from the national grid in times of distress.
For now, the national power grid is still the reality for most energy consumers in the U.S. The next time you turn on your lights or use the microwave, you can really appreciate the journey that your electricity has taken to power the lives of you and everyone around you.