This frightening fall reading list is powerfully spooky

I’m part of a very serious book club.

We never get together to just sip wine and eat snacks. It could practically be credit for a grad school literature class.

OK, ...

Tagged: books, energy grid

Expand Article

This frightening fall reading list is powerfully spooky

Young woman looks scared as she reads a book.

All of these books and others are good reminders of just how important it is to keep our grid safe and make me thankful that our utilities take that responsibility seriously.

Key Points

  • Fall is a great time to get back into reading.
  • Some of Amazon’s top rated books are post-apocalyptic fiction that related to energy.
  • The thought of a countrywide power outage is scary, but thankfully, our utilities work hard to keep us safe. 

I’m part of a very serious book club.

We never get together to just sip wine and eat snacks. It could practically be credit for a grad school literature class.

OK, so maybe we exchange the occasional funny story and pop open a little bit of wine. …

Fine, truth police, you got me.

We only sit and chat, and I didn’t even read the last book but only because we chose the book on precisely the same day I discovered the show “This is Us” exists, and I only have 30 minutes tops for entertainment each night after I get the kids to bed, and I might have an actual addiction to that show, but give a girl a break! You don’t know my life!

Anyhoo, we’re currently deciding what book to take on next (which we will all read, cover to cover, promise).

Which made me think about some of the great power-related books out there.

No really.

Think about how a huge blackout can be the perfect backdrop to a post-apocalyptic fantasy. I’m not above reading a little teen fiction.

Here are a few books to check out the next time you curl up in a warm blanket with fuzzy socks and definitely do not even think about things like if Kate’s singing career will take off, when and how Jack is going to leave the scene, if Kevin is going to really end up with Isabelle, and how the heck Rebecca and Miguel ever became a thing.

  • “Outage” by Ellisa Barr — Chaos reigns after an electromagnetic pulse attack destroys the country’s power grid and sends the United States back to the Dark Ages. The official summary on Amazon questions if the story’s teen protagonist can ever survive without a cell phone. To which teens everywhere said, no, no she definitely cannot. Also, no heat or clean water might also be issues, but mainly, cell phones.
  • “Once upon an apocalypse by Jeff Motes — The United States is attacked with an electro-magnetic pulse weapon. In the twinkle of an eye, America is sent back deep into the 19th century. A single mom, bank vice-president and contractor journey home amid the chaos. Readers are advised to keep tissues close to hand.
  • “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins – You can’t talk about post-apocalyptic fiction without mentioning “The Hunger Games.” In “Mockingjay,” Katniss and other district citizens begin to rebel against the capitol and President Snow. District 5 breaks a dam that provides hydroelectricity to the entire capitol, leaving the city without any power and highlighting the need for redundancy in our power grid.

All of these books and others are good reminders of just how important it is to keep our grid safe and make me thankful that our utilities take that responsibility seriously.

They have teams working to keep trees from taking down lines, engineers who make sure we have backup power when we need it, and computer whizzes fighting off cyber-attacks.

All of this takes investment, but I, for one, sleep a little better at night knowing that some of my utility bill goes towards these efforts each month.

Watching an episode of “This Is Us” right before nodding off helps too.


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: books, energy grid

Did our electric grid earn a passing grade?

School is back in session, and no one is safe from the grading scale.

Not even our nation’s electric grid.

Some have called our grid one of the greatest inventions ...

Tagged: energy grid

Expand Article

Did our electric grid earn a passing grade?

Apple sits on a report card full of passing grades

Although the Department of Energy’s 187-page study didn’t assign the grid an actual grade, it’s safe to say that it would be passing.

Key Points

  • The Department of Energy just completed a study of the nation’s electric system.
  • It found that some things are going well and made some recommendations for improvements.
  • The energy industry is changing quickly, so this report aims to help policymakers, utilities and customers make good decisions. 

School is back in session, and no one is safe from the grading scale.

Not even our nation’s electric grid.

Some have called our grid one of the greatest inventions in history. Think of it as your class valedictorian who is a high achiever, can always be depended on to take on a new challenge, and even invites the new kids to the lunch table. The grid has welcomed newcomers like wind and solar, and thanks to recent investments, it’s doing a good job delivering energy to the people who need it.

Although the Department of Energy’s 187-page study didn’t assign the grid an actual grade, it’s safe to say that it would be passing.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry asked for the study to see how the grid is holding up with all of the massive changes in the energy industry. Specifically, the report focuses on the changes made in the past 15 years in technology and energy resources.

The report examined something that’s top of mind as parts of our country are dealing with major natural disasters: the electric system’s resilience.

“Recent severe weather events have demonstrated the need to improve system resilience,” the report said. “The range of potential disruptive events is broad, and the system needs to be designed to handle high-impact, low-probability events. This makes it very challenging to develop cost-effective programs to improve resilience at the regional, state, or utility levels.”

In short, there’s still work to be done to make sure vital energy services are available during disasters.

The report also outlines natural gas’s rise to become the top power generation resource, how variable renewable energy is impacting the mix, and that energy efficiency seems to be working as electricity demand growth flattens.

The Department of Energy staff emphasized that energy storage will be important to support more renewable resources to balance energy supply and customer demand. It recommends that continued investment and development will be needed in the future to continue providing reliable energy that can support modern electric system operations.

So although our valedictorian has a lot to be proud of, she still has a lot of work to do. And based on her past, I’m confident she’ll rise to the occasion.


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: energy grid

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

Expand Article

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.

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

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

Expand Article

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

Expand Article

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