Our national grid was created in 1938, not exactly our most current project. Since then, the power grid has provided electricity to millions of homes and commercial buildings. It’s the reason our phones can be charged, our light bulbs can illuminate our rooms, and our TV’s can provide us entertainment. We often don’t realize it, but we use electricity so much in our daily routines, and it’s all because of our electrical grid. However, many scientists and electrical engineers are worried about our grid, as even the slightest issue can cause thousands, if not millions of Americans to lose power. So why exactly are they worried, and what is being done to improve our electrical grid?
The Grid is Outdated
No one has denoted that our grid has served us well for over a century. However, the grid is old and in need of modernization in order to be reliable and adapt to evolving technology. The issue with this is that replacing faulty parts of the grid is incredibly costly. Not to mention, each new part must be brought in from foreign countries and can weigh upward of 400 tons. Needless to say, replacements aren’t a walk in the park. So, over the years, we’ve simply repaired broken parts of the grid regardless of the risks that comes along with doing that.
It’s Growing Weak
There are numerous vulnerabilities within our power grid. Our grid is growing incapable of the handling the amount of electricity running through it. Take a wind farm, for example. In this interview, cultural anthropologist, Gretchen Bakke explains that when we get a large gust of wind, our electrical grid obtains too much energy, thus creates too much electricity. The unused electricity builds up in the grid and causes the grid to become overloaded. This creates a surge. This kind of surge will leave the area of the interconnection, or region’s grid, without power. Also, there is a lot of concern of a security breach. Seeing as our nation’s grid was created so long ago, security threats were not nearly as prevalent as they are nowadays. Forbes contributor, Loren Thomson, says that our electricity system is full of seams that can be exploited by hackers. The problem with this is that one breach can cause a cascading amount of outages. It’s like a domino effect.
What’s Being Done
Various reports show grid operators with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Southern Company using innovative technology to relieve some of the stress on our grid. This technology, Smart Wires, is a company that developed electrical wires that “dynamically react in real time to changing grid needs to give a precise, granular control of how power flows on a network”. Also, companies like Duke Energy and Exelon are investing directly in distributed solar power. Many companies are starting to invest in renewables, as well. Renewable energy systems help to power homes and small businesses. While this is not necessarily going to solve the grid problem as a whole, it will help to take a significant amount of pressure off of the grid with the millions of homes and small businesses around the United States.