Introduction to the Grid
The Current Grid
The power plants, substations, transmission lines and distribution circuitry which deliver electricity to American consumers are known collectively as "the Grid". As shown in the above image, a grid consists of:
- power generating stations,
- "step up" transformers that raise the voltage from the generating stations to high voltages suitable for long distance transmission,
- transmission lines that carry the electrical power over those long distances,
- other "step down" transformers in local areas that lower voltages to levels appropriate for consumer needs, and
- distribution lines that carry that lower voltage electricity to homes, factories and other final destinations.
Today's century-old Grid still mirrors the maze of streets, roads and byways that it did at its inception, and its technology is antiquated in many respects, resulting in inefficiencies and excessive costs. Yet electricity is increasingly vital as a part of our overall energy picture. Improvement to the current grid is essential at every level and aspect of the grid system, and technologies have been developed which would provide those improvements. Once applied, the result of those technological improvements would be what is known as a "Smart Grid".
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Whereas a smart grid can be implemented on a regional level, there is a need for the national grid system to be uniformly upgraded to smart grid standards and thoroughly connected into a single grid system. This would be akin to building a 21st century Interstate Highway System for electricity. This concept, known as a "Super Grid", would provide the whole country with new and improved smart grid technologies. The complete Super Grid would be a national, international and ultimately intercontinental, technologically advanced system, built incrementally by tying together existing grid areas as they were upgraded to smart grid standards.
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