We’re going to tap into the power, today on Engineering Works!
It’s easy to take electricity for granted. Hit the switch and electricity does neat things â€” brings us news and entertainment on TV, cooks our food, lights our way in the dark. Even keeps us cool in the summer.
Getting us the electric power that makes these conveniences possible is pretty complicated. Except for Texas, the United States is divided into two huge power networks â€” one in the East and one in the West â€” generating stations, transformers and transmission lines. Engineers call them power distribution grids. They’re how electricity gets from there to here.
Texas has its own distribution grid. That’s a story for another time.
These grids allow power companies to sell electricity when they have extra or buy it when they need extra. A complicated system of controls keeps it balanced.
This is a good thing. But it’s a bad thing, too. Because if the controls fail just right – or wrong – a power outage in one part of the grid can end up blacking out millions of people across the rest of it. That’s what happened in 2003, when a power failure in Ohio blacked out a big part of the northeastern United States for several days.
Power engineers spent months looking into exactly why it happened, and they’ve developed safeguards that should keep it from happening again.
Our power is on today, and we hope yours is, too.