Posted by: nialljmcshane | July 11, 2010

Visualizing the U.S. Electric Grid

Last week, NPR aired a segment on the popular Fresh Air Program dealing with the Smart Grid.

The interview with Joel Achenbach, a staff writer at the Washington Post, addressed various challenges with the current grid including:

  • The reality that electricity generation is often remote from the load centers where it is consumed and discussed the power companies concerns with the difficulty of securing permits for transmission lines due to the segmentation of local and state authority.
  • The aged nature of the grid technology, the lack of two-way information flow and the potential for improved efficiency with Smart Grid technology.
  • The lack of viable storage technologies for electricity with the notable exception of technologies like pumped hydro and a few isolated large scale battery installations was also discussed.
  • The absence of a national plan for implementing the Smart Grid in the face of skepticism expressed at local levels by state regulators as illustrated by the recent decision to reject BGE’s Smart Grid project in Maryland:  Note: I personally read the Maryland regulator’s decision not as a rejection of the Smart Grid concept but as a rejection of a poorly conceived business plan by a specific utility.

An interesting statistic that was quoted in the interview is that blackouts and brownouts cost US businesses up to $80 Billion per year.  Although the total cost of implementing a Smart Grid infrastructure far exceeds this figure, this data illustrates the financial incentives for the U.S. economy of overhauling the grid.

The entire segment can be found on the NPR website along with a text summary of the interview which includes a link to a fascinating interactive map of the U.S. Electric Grid.



  1. […] required to move power from these generation sites to the cities and urban areas and there are many regulatory hurdles affecting the ability of utilities to build new transmission […]

  2. […] another example of problems caused by regulations taking place at too local a level concerning the permitting process for transmission lines which can take much longer than the actual construction phase if and when permits are ever […]

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