By Kristen Rodman, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
April 15, 2014
Experts across the nation are searching for plausible solutions to the defects of the nation’s over-stressed and antiquated power system before severe weather season takes full rein.
An aging infrastructure combined with the vulnerability of natural disasters have intensified the threats against and effectiveness of the U.S. grid in recent years.
As the leading cause of power outages in the U.S., severe weather poses the largest risk to the grid’s operations resulting in 66 percent of the power disruptions across the country from 2008 to 2012, according to Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Massoud Amin.
Impacts of severe weather on the grid cost the nation between $18 billion and $33 billion per year with wind storms, hurricanes and severe storms causing the most consumer disruptions each year, Amin said.
Only four years ago, in 2010, extreme weather set a record number of major U.S. transmission outages with severe storms generating 150 of the year’s total 247 massive power outage events.
In an attempt to combat some of the stress put on the archaic power grid, experts are searching for feasible alternatives, including below-ground power and smart grids.
Understanding the U.S. Power Grid
The operation and day-to-day functionality of the U.S. power grid can be explained more simply in comparison to the human heart, according to Amin.
The flow of power begins with a customer who turns on a light, when that light is turned on millions of electrons travel instantaneously to provide electricity to that room. These electrons travel from more than 150,000 generators across the United States and into four major subregions, taking the path of least resistance, or the power lines with the least traffic.
Motorists on highway 69, south of Pittsburg, Kan., drive around downed power lines on Friday morning, May 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Mike Gullett)
The electric current is reduced to a lower charge so that power can be distributed safely for use in a home or business, etc.