Have you ever considered how electricity gets to your wall socket? Many people take this modern convenience for granted, or simply never even consider the complexity of the power grid. In ordinary circumstances, it my seem unnecessary to comprehend the transmission of electricity — when it works, it works. However, if (or when) something goes wrong with the grid, the situation will go from bad to worse in mere hours.

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Think about it: electricity doesn’t just keep our lights on and our smartphones charged. It maintains a network of vital and time-sensitive systems including traffic control, food storage, water processing, and medical devices. It’s terrifying to consider a long-term failure of the power grid, and the devastating consequences it would have.

To better understand the functionality and potential fragility of our power grid, check out the following infographic from the U.S. Department of Energy. It outlines the four phases of electricity: generation, transmission, distribution, and use. We often think of power outages as a result of the middle two phases, but in reality, a grid-down situation could be due to a failure anywhere along the line. As the graphic points out, there are only two major and three minor grids controlling the entirety of North America. Fortunately, the grid is gradually being updated to be more efficient and self-sustaining. From a containment standpoint alone, we really like the sound of micro-grids.

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