The Power Problem
In short, central power generation stations (i.e. nuclear, natural gas power plants) push high power current (500 to 3,000 Megawatts) through transmission lines (i.e. high power cables) to substations. Substations step down power to medium voltage via transformers and redistribute power to end users (i.e. residential, commercial, government and industrial customers).
This conventional grid layout is a highly centralized network. Centralized power system are vulnerable to costly down-time; one downed power line could potentially result in widespread blackouts costing businesses and taxpayers billions of dollars.
As demographic growth and consumer adoption of electronic devices drives increased per capita electricity demand, the aging grid infrastructure will likely exhibit lower stability and reliability if government and utilities do not implement much needed infrastructure upgrades.
Another major issue facing the worldwide electric grid is the addition of renewable energy generation sources. Existing power generation sources like nuclear or coal plants provide a consistent and reliable flow of energy to the grid. The grid then tries to distribute a level quality of power to all areas. However, new alternative power sources like wind and solar energy, even if efficient and sustainable, provide intermittent and varying amounts of electricity to the grid. Power levels fluctuate based on time of day for solar power and change in wind speeds for wind power. This variable output of power creates massive energy storage issues that the grid cannot tolerate. Growth in the renewable energy sector, like solar, wind and electric vehicles, require Smart Grid improvement for success. Technology advancements in energy distribution and transmission will drive down cost and improve efficiency. Lastly, future power demand could greatly exceed power generation. Much infrastructure investment is required to ensure future power stability.
Quick Fact - The electric power inductry is facing many challenges that threaten the utilities' ability to deliver reliable and efficient power.
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