The country is more divided than you thought: Here’s the surprising way how

Did you know that the grid isn’t one big web covering the country?

I know, right?

It seems like it should be one, seamless web of wires that delivers electricity, ...

Tagged: energy grid, electricity

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The country is more divided than you thought: Here’s the surprising way how

Power lines and a power plant on an open prairie

Think of it this way: If our interstate highway system worked the same way, roads from the Midwest would only let you drive in the middle of our country, then you’d have to go hundreds of miles out of your way to find a connection point to get to another region’s highway system.

Key Points

  • The U.S. electric grid is made of three interconnections.
  • Each region is independent, with a few connection points between them.
  • A new study is looking at ways to connect them better and make the grid more flexible.

Did you know that the grid isn’t one big web covering the country?

I know, right?

It seems like it should be one, seamless web of wires that delivers electricity, but it’s actually three individual webs that only connect in a few spots.

Think of it this way: If our interstate highway system worked the same way, roads from the Midwest would only let you drive in the middle of our country, then you’d have to go hundreds of miles out of your way to find a connection point to get to another region’s highway system.

And you thought your kids asked “are we there yet?” too many times before.

Here are the three primary electricity interconnections (interconnection is a fancy way of saying web of wires that connect electricity within a region):

  • The Eastern Interconnection – spans east of the Rocky Mountains and a portion of Texas
  • The Western Interconnection – covers areas west of the Rockies
  • The Electric Reliability Council of Texas – powers nearly all of the state.

Having three, completely independent interconnections has some pros and cons.

On the bright side, utilities and power providers can act locally to meet power needs nearby.

But the drawback is that it’s difficult to transfer energy from one area to another area across the country.

So for instance, if Iowa is having a really windy day and there’s surplus wind energy being produced, it’s hard to ship it to a population center on the West Coast that could use it.

The Department of Energy is spending $220 million during the next three years in research and development to explore grid modernization.

Some of the research will focus on an Interconnections Seam Study, which will look at ways to increase the points connecting Eastern and Western Interconnections.

The hope is that more connections could help the grid be more flexible, more reliable, and better able to accommodate renewable energy like wind and solar that increase and decrease depending on the weather and time of day.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full-time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Could electric vehicle charging stations make your energy cheaper?

I splurged and bought a spendy pair of new jeans recently. They were the most comfortable and stylish pants I had ever tried on. But even so, I had a hard time convincing myself ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, energy costs, energy grid

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Could electric vehicle charging stations make your energy cheaper?

Electric vehicle charging station this way

To get more use out of the grid, [Kansas City Power & Light] decided to change the equation by installing 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations.

Key Points

  • Kansas City Power & Light is building electric vehicle charging stations.
  • The utility hopes to get more use out of its underused grid.
  • The infrastructure is already paid for, so increasing use could drive down the per-unit cost of electricity. 

I splurged and bought a spendy pair of new jeans recently. They were the most comfortable and stylish pants I had ever tried on. But even so, I had a hard time convincing myself the purchase was worth it.

To justify my splurge, I decided to wear them every day. That way, when I average it out, the cost of the jeans per use would actually be very low.

For the sake of easy math, let’s say the jeans cost $200. If I only wore them 20 times this year, they would cost $10 per use. But if I wear them 365 times this year, it’s only $0.55 per use.

Good thing I really love these pants.

Kansas City Power & Light is using a similar approach to make electricity more affordable for its customers. The infrastructure the utility uses to deliver electricity to its customers is already paid for. But it was created to support the huge energy demand on the hottest summer day when everyone has their air conditioners running on full blast.

Since the temperatures only spike a few times a year, the grid is underused about 80 percent of the time.

To get more use out of the grid, the company decided to change the equation by installing 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations. If enough customers used a lot more energy, it could drive down the cost per unit of electricity, similar to how wearing my pants more often brings down the cost per wear.

“When you turn on an additional TV in your home, that’s not enough to change that equation,” said Chuck Caisley, KCP&L’s vice president for marketing and public affairs in an interview with NPR’s “All Tech Considered.” “But when you talk about a segment [the auto industry] that’s as much as 25 to 30 percent of the entire economy, and electrifying it, you’re talking about a significant amount of increased electricity use, which means we’re now using that infrastructure that customers have paid for so much more efficiently."

Two years into the project, KC&L has installed 850 of its promised 1,000 charging stations.

 It’s too early to tell if this will actually drive down the unit costs for customers, but I’ll check back in to see how it goes and keep you updated.

Now I just need to figure out when I’m going to wash these jeans.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Electric Vehicles, energy costs, energy grid

See what it’s like to climb wind towers for a living

Maintaining our energy systems takes a special kind of person. Someone who is smart, hard-working and willing to use power tools while hanging hundreds of feet into the air.

Someone ...

Tagged: wind energy, wind turbines, energy grid

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See what it’s like to climb wind towers for a living

Wind technicians hang from a wind turbine blade while making repairs

Maintaining our grid is part of what makes up the cost of energy, so it’s interesting to see those energy dollars at work.

Key Points

  • Maintaining our energy systems is part of what makes up the cost of energy.
  • When part of the grid breaks down, it needs to be fixed quickly.
  • Check out this wind technician working on a wind blade, hundreds of feet in the air.

Maintaining our energy systems takes a special kind of person. Someone who is smart, hard-working and willing to use power tools while hanging hundreds of feet into the air.

Someone like rock-climber-turned-wind-technician Jessica Kilroy.

When giant wind turbines break down, they need to be fixed fast. That’s where Jessica comes in, as featured on the Weather Channel’s Great Big Story series.

Maintaining our grid is part of what makes up the cost of energy, so it’s interesting to see those energy dollars at work.

There are a lot of behind-the-scenes things that go into keeping our energy available when we need it. Here is a great infographic that explains how the grid transports energy hundreds of miles from the source to your home or office.

It’s not as cool as the video of a daredevil wind technician, but it does make you stop to think about the system that we depend on.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: wind energy, wind turbines, energy grid