Video: What is an Electrical Grid?January 22, 2024
Electricity powers the world around us, but in order for that to happen the electricity has to be made, moved and delivered to where it’s needed. To achieve that, most of us rely on power from a grid. An electrical grid is an interconnected system that works together to generate, transmit and distribute electrical energy for use in homes and businesses.
First, the power must be generated. This happens in power plants of all kinds, from coal, natural gas and nuclear, to hydro, wind and solar. Grids rely on different sources of power generation for redundancy and to improve resilience.
Transmission and distribution
That power is then transmitted at very high voltage to cities and towns up to 300 miles away. When it gets close to its final destination, transformers, substations and subsequent infrastructure reduce the voltage and distribute the electricity through power lines to homes and businesses.
Because power, for the most part, has to be used as it’s made, all these different pieces have to work together correctly to ensure that the power stays on.
Although it’s often referred to as “the grid,” the U.S. power system is actually made up of three mostly independent grids called interconnections.
- The Eastern Interconnection operates in states east of the Rocky Mountains.
- The Western Interconnection powers everything west of that.
- The Texas Interconnection serves most of Texas.
Within any electric grid are interconnected local grids. These local grid provide redundancies that improve resilience against weather and other events that could cause power interruptions. The more interconnections and redundancies, the more resilient the system. That’s why future advancements that could bring the three interconnections together could help improve efficiency and resilience for the entire United States.
Understanding what an electrical grid is and how it functions can help you appreciate the complexity involved in bringing power to an outlet near you.