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How the Power Grid Actually Works

Have you ever wondered about how electricity actually makes it to your household outlet?

It’s actually quite miraculous: a complex system of substations, transformers and wires allow electricity to be instantly accessed at your convenience, even though it is generated hundreds of miles away.

The following infographic shows how the power grid works – and it helps explain how electricity gets from the power plant to your household socket:

How the Power Grid Actually Works

The power grid has four important parts:

Generation: Electricity is created by burning fossil fuels, nuclear reactions, or collecting wind, solar, or water energy.

Transmission: Electricity immediately goes to substations, where it is converted to a higher voltage via step-up transformers. This allows the electricity to travel long distances more efficiently.

Distribution: Poles take electricity to where it needs to go. It is converted to a low voltage through step-down transformers, so that it can be used by houses or businesses.

End Use: Once distributed, energy is used to keep food cold, rooms lit, and computers charged.

Power Grid Innovations

The future of grids is exciting, and these are some of the most important innovations that will affect how power is managed and distributed to cities:

Microgrids: These are tiny, self-sufficient grids that can be “detached” from the larger grid. Microgrids will help to mitigate grid disturbances, and will make power grids more resilient as a whole.

Energy Storage: As society becomes better at solving the energy problem with better batteries and other new ways of approaching energy storage, our grids will be better able to manage excess energy supply and demand.

Smart Meters: Smart meters allow two-way communication between consumers and utility companies. Such meters allow utility companies to more efficiently match energy generation and consumption. They also help to alert utility companies when power is out, so that any issues can be resolved faster.

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