The electricity powering your light bulb is produced in a power plant by generators. Energy cannot be created or destroyed just changed from one form to another. Newly generated electricity is then transported over the power grid to your electrical outlet.
The United States has three power grids that keep the lower 48 states powered:
- The Eastern Interconnected System east of the Rocky Mountains
- The Western Interconnected System from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains
- Texas Interconnected System
These three separate systems are interconnected and require constant oversight to ensure that all the components are linked together. Since large quantities of electricity cannot be stored effectively or efficiently, electricity must be produced as it is used, this increases the need to watch over the grid. Control centers are utilized to monitor the supply and demand to safeguard against blackouts. To avoid blackouts there must always be a perfect balance between supply and demand.
From the control centers electricity is constantly monitored as it travels from the power plants to high-voltage power lines that transport electricity throughout the three grids. The higher the voltage the more efficiently they transport electricity. In other words the higher the voltage the more electricity will get to the end point. However, there will always be losses as electricity flows through the power grid.
From the high voltage power lines the electricity is “stepped-down” to lower voltage power lines, utility poles and wires before it can be safely used in your home or office.
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BoingBoing, Where electricity comes from
US Energy Information Administration, Energy In Brief, What is the electrical power grid, and what are some challenges it faces?