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  • This is Larry. He's a squirrel.

  • He likes nuts.

  • In 2019, he went into an electric box in Kettering, Ohio.

  • Is this a nut? It was not a nut.

  • He broke the electric box.

  • And caused a blackout for 20,000 people.

  • Larry isn't alone. Squirrels do this all the time.

  • Here's a map of their exploits, just last year.

  • But here's the thing: Blackouts happen all the time, for all kinds of reasons.

  • Like wildfires.

  • Or storms.

  • And in the last half-century, there have been more and more power outages because of weather.

  • And it'll only get worse because of our changing climate.

  • The way we power the world is fragile.

  • But there's a way to make it more resilient.

  • Our current energy system looks like this:

  • Right on top are power plants, which get their energy from a variety of sources:

  • like fossil fuels, wind and the sun.

  • They distribute electricity down to thousandsif not millionsof customers. So it's

  • a big, centralized system.

  • When you're sending a lot of power over just a few lines,

  • that means that a tree falling on those power lines, or a storm can easily knock out power to a lot of people.

  • That's Umair Irfan. He writes about energy policy for

  • It's not just an inconvenience, it can affect the lives of thousands of people.

  • We saw after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, a blackout that lasted for months.

  • And thousands of people died.

  • There are ways to avoid this, though.

  • Some homes have generators.

  • Some neighborhoods have their own solar panels.

  • And some places even have their own small power plants, like the New York University campus.

  • During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, they were able to keep the campus liteven when

  • most of downtown Manhattan went dark.

  • These are all examples of a microgrid.

  • A decentralized system that can sustain itself when it needs to.

  • And the US government has invested in this technology.

  • The military is very interested in microgrids. This is something they've invested in heavily

  • to power installationsboth in the United States and also in foreign areas where they

  • may not have a reliable central power grid that they can count on.

  • Another area is basically for remote, isolated communities

  • that have a very fragile and tenuous link to the main power grid.

  • Microgrids are very useful during emergencies, especially blackouts.

  • But in an ideal world, we don't just use them for emergencies.

  • They could restructure our current power system.

  • If your goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you want to try to minimize the amount of fossil

  • fuel you use and maximize the amount of free solar and wind energy you have.

  • Those can vary throughout the day.

  • And so you want to route power from where it's sunniest and windiest to the places that need it most.

  • And that's where microgrids come in.

  • Microgrids can generate power using green sources, like wind and solar. And unlike the

  • power plants, they can store that energy.

  • When it's no longer sunny or windy,

  • microgrids can jump in and say: “Hey! We have some power stored here!”

  • And they can share their stored energy back up into the big grid.

  • But...

  • One big issue is that a lot of utilities are effectively monopolies and they're regulated by regulators

  • that are trying to protect these old business models.

  • The reason microgrids present a threat to these companies isn't just that they help you survive a blackout.

  • It's that it can also change the source of our power and the direction it flows in.

This is Larry. He's a squirrel.

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B1 Vox power grid energy blackout solar

How to fix our unreliable power grid

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/08/12
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