pn video How Does the Power Grid Work?


How does the grid work?
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The U.S. electric grid dates back to 1882, the year that Thomas Edison unveiled the country's first power plant at the Pearl Street Station in lower Manhattan. While the grid has expanded from Edison's original fifty-nine customers to hundreds of millions of users, for decades its basic structure has remained much the same. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), fossil fuel–based power plants—burning coal, oil, or natural gas—create about 60 percent of the nation’s power, while nuclear power accounts for nearly 20 percent. Electricity is sent across long distances using high-voltage transmission lines, and local facilities known as substations convert that high-voltage power to a lower voltage (a process called “stepping down”) and distribute it to nearby homes and businesses.

Taken together, the grid has been called the largest machine in the world, comprising eleven thousand power plants, three thousand utilities, and more than two million miles of power lines. In practice, however, there are three separate U.S. grids, or self-contained interconnections of power production and transmission. These are the Eastern, Western, and Texas interconnections.

The U.S. Electric Grid

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