It’s easy to take electricity for granted. But modern life would not be possible without it. To keep it going, we need more efficient ways to manage electricity.
For over one hundred years, coal and other fossil fuels have been used by power plants to produce the electricity we use every day. The Grid is a network of power lines and substations that carry electricity from power plants to homes and businesses.
Today, the grid has problems. It needs updating and is running at capacity. When power lines break or powerplants can’t produce enough power, blackouts can occur – and that’s a problem that can cause fatalities.
At the same time, today’s grid often relies on a single power source and doesn’t provide detailed information on usage, making electricity difficult to manage.
To address these problems in the past, we simply built new power plants. But now we can work toward sustainability and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by using a smarter grid.
The Smart Grid means adding sensors and software to the existing grid that will give utilities and individuals new information that will help them understand and react to changes quickly.
Let’s say a tree falls on a powerline and one thousand homes lose power. With the current grid, utility employees often physically re-route power, which takes time.
With the Smart Grid, sensors and software would detect and immediately route the power around the problem, limiting the issue to fewer homes.
And there’s more. The price of electricity changes throughout the day, but we can’t see it with the current meters on our homes. It may be expensive during peak hours and cheap late at night. With new Smart meters at your home, you could set your dishwasher to run when power is cheap. This provides more control of your energy bill and helps prevent blackouts at peak hours.
The Smart Grid also means news ways to use renewable energy. Power generation can now be distributed across multiple sources so the system is more stable and efficient.
It’s this ability to communicate and manage electricity that makes the grid smarter and helps us avoid burning more fossil fuels in the future.
The Smart Grid is still a few years away, but soon we’ll be able to manage our energy bill, help the environment and help the economy by making more informed decisions about how we use electricity.
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