RealNews

How to Fix the Electrical Grid

Enforcing tighter standards and introducing a healthy dose of digital smarts will minimize the risk of future blackouts. For a commodity we take for granted, electricity is remarkably challenging to deliver. The national grid that sends electrons to our computers and toasters is, in essence, one huge electrical circuit. The laws of physics dictate that supply and demand must stay in exquisite balance, like a ballerina endlessly pirouetting en pointe. If one transmission line fails, the system must instantaneously reroute power or other lines and power plants will fall like so many dominoes, causing massive blackouts. The surprise is that the unsung managers of the grid successfully maintain this delicate balance virtually all the time, using automation and their own judgment to keep electricity flowing amid storms, floods, and power-plant crashes. Indeed, problems like those suffered by power lines in Ohio, which may have led to the Aug. 14 blackout, are solved constantly every day on the grid. “This blackout should not have occurred,” says William Massey, a commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). “There was a system failure.” Full Story

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