Nearly every single person living in the United States relies on the electrical grid. It's how electricity gets from the power plant to your home, powering your devices and appliances. With no grid, none of the electrical work in your home will function – no television, no air conditioning and no electric lights. Our grid is changing, however, taking advantage of evolving technology on both the distribution and consumer side of the equation. Read on to learn more about how our electrical grid will evolve to meets the needs of the 21st century.
How to Balance Supply and Demand
The electrical grid is not a single object, but rather a giant network of power plants and transmission lines that spans the entire nation. In order for electricity to flow from the generating stations into your home’s electrical work, the grid needs to be able to meet the demand at any given time and place. This can be an enormous challenge – if there is too little production, consumers can be subject to annoying and damaging brownouts. Ramping up generation to meet variable demand is expensive and inefficient, however.
Some utilities solve the problem with time-of-day pricing, charging more during the day and less at night to smooth out demand. Smart technology, however, will allow us to fine-tune the grid even further to increase efficiency, improve communication and mitigate blackouts or other power outages.
Smart Meters and Dispersed Generation
Smart meters are one of the first steps toward our new grid. These meters track residential electrical consumption in real time and can communicate with the utility company instantaneously. They can allow producers to better predict demand, respond immediately to dips and spikes, and further refine variable pricing structures that incentivize people to use less electricity during peak hours. Smart meters also give homeowners the power to see where and when they are putting the most stress on their electrical work, allowing them to adjust their behavior strategically.
Changes are coming to the generation side as well. Traditionally, the electrical grid is powered by large, centralized power plants, but residential solar installations mean that generation is becoming more widely distributed. Wind generation is also becoming an ever-larger factor in our nation's energy supply. This means that the grid needs to be updated to become more flexible and adaptable, but there is a large payoff in sight – the more dispersed that power generation becomes, the more resilient the grid will be in the event of an outage, with smaller regions able to supply themselves with emergency power if they are cut off from the centralized system.
Makes Tomorrow's Energy Grid Work for You
No one knows exactly what the power grid will look like 100 years from now, but the nation is well on its way to updating its electrical infrastructure to meet the needs of this century. If you have any concerns about how your electrical work will interface with the power grid of the future, or need any other work done on the wiring and circuitry in your home, call an expert electrician today.