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America’s Electric Grid Past, Present and Future Report

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Updated: Jul 3rd, 2020

Introduction

Electrical grid refers to the interconnection of networks that is made for the transmission of electricity from source to consumers. The grid consists of transmission lines, generating stations and distribution lines. The country’s electrical grid encompasses the interconnections of other smaller systems that transmit electricity across the country. States in the Rocky Mountains are covered by the Western Interconnections. Eastern interconnections also cover states found on the eastern side. Most of the Texas is covered by the Texas interconnected system.

The Past Grid

Electrical grid in the country emerged long time ago as early as in the 1880’s. When the electrical grid emerged in the country, the systems were localized and few. An electric system that was complete was first launched in New York City in 1882. This station was referred to as the Pearl Street Station. The system connected a hundred volt generator by burning of coal in order to light a number of hundred lamps in the neighboring areas. A few years later, other improved systems were launched across the country. Alternating current (AC) and the direct current (DC) were the two most used systems in the early days (“Burn: The Electricity Grid: A History, An Energy Journal” par. 2).

Thomas Edison came up with the direct current. Electricity usually flows in one direction and in complete circuit in DC. On the other hand, electricity flows back and forth in alternating current. William Stanley, Jr. became the first to mount an alternating current on a generator. Alternating current has the advantage of transmitting power as high voltage as well as converting it to low voltage so as to make it possible to serve individual consumers (“Burn: The Electricity Grid: A History, An Energy Journal” par. 3).

There was increased competition during the years 1800s due to the increase in the number of DC and AC grid companies in the country that competed against each other. The government had to institute some regulations in order to control the grid system during then. Despite having the regulations put in place, several business persons ended up creating powerful monopolies. It was during the Great Depression that Federal regulations and other projects through the Tennessee Valley Authority provided electricity to rural areas (“Burn: The Electricity Grid: A History, An Energy Journal” par. 4).

By the year 1930, proper establishment of electric utilities were made in the country. Various electricity components were provided the electric utilities. That kind of electricity system was referred to as the vertically integrated utility because it was a regulated monopoly. In addition, several other power plants were built across the nation as well as the enlargement of the distribution and transmission lines. Larger plants were built as electricity became more widespread, in order to aid in the provision of electricity. Again, bigger transmission lines were established in order to enhance electricity transmission to long distances. The year 1978 saw the passing of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act. This made it possible for non-utility owned power points to sell electricity, thereby opening the door for privatization (“Burn: The Electricity Grid: A History, An Energy Journal” par. 5-6).

The grid system was to be opened to the entire population by the federal government. In order to prevent competition, the vertically integrated utilities implemented mechanisms that prevented the use of the transmission lines by outsiders. The government thereafter came up with rules that forced the opening access to the transmission lines. This led to the setting of the stage for the independent system operators that took the responsibility of managing electricity transmissions (“Burn: The Electricity Grid: A History, An Energy Journal” par. 7).Texas and Austin were the first states in which smart grid was established in 2003. Other states later followed such as Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is considered the home of the first fully functional smart grid enabled city in the US. Boulder has more than 23,000 smart meters network.

The Present Grid

The current grid consists of the three separate grids which has made the system become complex. In addition, systems are regionally adapted and varied as it was a century ago. The regional operators also cover some states. The current electric grid incorporates wind and solar power and the regions where it is harvested (“Burn: The Electricity Grid: A History, An Energy Journal” par. 8).

The grid also presents a clear breakdown of each of the country’s states power sources. For instance, 70 percent of hippie Vermont’s power comes from nuclear, while that of Pacific Northwest comes from hydroelectric power (Lallanilla 7).

The availability of wind and solar sources in most regions of the country is a good indicator on the way in which the country could turn to renewable energy. Currently, Americans in the country are using less power which may make it difficult for the electric companies to get the required revenue needed for the purpose of maintaining the high voltage lines networks and generating plants. If companies increase the rates too high in order to cover for the declining sales volume, customers may end up embracing more energy saving practices that may push the demand for grid power further downwards. Regulators are working on ways of keeping utilities solvent because the grid was critical to the country’s standards of living. Several power stations in different states in the country are also trying to overhaul their power rates in order to ensure that they are not overly dependent on kilowatt-hour sales (Lallanilla 8).

Research indicates that the aging U.S. electric grid under use may plunge the country into darkness due to its failures. The country’s current grid system is in complete resemblance to the 1800s grid, which was mainly used in supplying electricity to individual consumers. Even though the demand for energy has increased over time in the country, much of the electric grid has not changed and operates in the same way it did several decades ago (Lallanilla 9).

The current grid faces numerous challenges. For instance, when power outages occur due to minor cause or disasters, it becomes difficulty for the operators to establish the areas affected as well as the cause of the problem. Individuals are regularly required to intervene on the current grid system in order to read individual consumer meters, look for any service interruptions and monitor default equipments. In addition, some of the current grid system is old and even beyond obsolescence (Lallanilla 10).

For instance, in the year 2003, local shut down occurred in Ohio after hot sagging power lines came into conduct with fallen trees. As a result power failure occurred in most regions in the country including some parts of Canada. The country was left in darkness after the blackout occurred for some days. This made people to close their business and even saw the economy incur several losses due to failure of operation. New improved technology is being implemented in the country in order to allow different users, both industrial and commercial to participate in smart grid programs (Lallanilla 11).

The Future Smart Grid

The smart grid is viewed as the future of electricity distribution in America and other nations in the world. Therefore, the future of the America’s electric grid will rely on the smart grid. Smart grid entails the process of using computer based remote control and automation in improving utility electricity delivery systems. Smart grid usually involves the computerization of the electric utility grid. Each device in the network can thereby be allocated sensors which help in the gathering of data. The system also entails a two-way communication that is, digitalized between the devices in the field and the operation center of the utility network (“Enbala Power Networks: Smart Grid: The Future of the Electric Power System, An Introduction to The Smart Grid” 5).

Devices are basically controlled from one main location by the use of automated technology in the smart grid system. The smart grid has one of the most important features of self-healing that entails the automatic working around power failures through the detection and isolation of outages as well as the process of rerouting electricity in order to meet demand. This is achieved with real time information, automated controls and embedded sensors. The smart grid serves six major functions. Firstly, it enables consumer participation. This is usually achieved through real time consumer management. Consumers are able to make their automatic billings as well as having a home portal that can be used during peak times. Secondly, the smart grid will look forward to the accommodation of all sources of electricity generation (“Enbala Power Networks: Smart Grid: The Future of the Electric Power System, An Introduction to The Smart Grid” 7).

America must expand the use of solar and wind energy in the near future. Research indicates that wind energy is capable of providing 20 percent of US electricity generation in the future. Some regions such as southwest, central and mid-west deserts are suitable for wind energy. Solar energy currently supplies less than one percent of the country’s needs (“Enbala Power Networks: Smart Grid: The Future of the Electric Power System, An Introduction to The Smart Grid” 8).

This indicates that the use of solar energy in the country will help in reducing carbon emissions as well as in promoting the use of clean energy. Third, the smart grid may enable in the development of new products and services in the market. These may include near real time electricity market and bi-directional metering. Fourthly, the current economy together with the entire society will be provided with quality power needs from the smart grid. Fifthly, the grid will optimize the assets that are currently under use in the electricity grid in order to improve efficiency. Lastly, the smart grid will operate resiliently towards natural disasters and attack (“Enbala Power Networks: Smart Grid: The Future of the Electric Power System, An Introduction to The Smart Grid” 9).

Conclusion

In summary, the electrical grid system of America has seen enormous changes since the first electricity concept was implemented many years ago. Currently, the present electric grid faces several flaws, which may result to blackouts in case that some events such as disasters influence the electricity system. The future looks bright in the electric grid with the adoption of the smart grid. The smart grid is viewed to bring several advantages to the economy and to the general American society in the future. The benefits may include the provision of quality power needs to the entire economy which may result to improved production.

Works Cited

Burn: The Electricity Grid: A History, An Energy Journal 2012. Web.

Enbala Power Networks: Smart Grid: The Future of the Electric Power System, An Introduction to The Smart Grid 2011. Web.

Lallanilla, Marc 2013, . Web.

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