Thinking global on energy grids

Many renewable energies like sun, wind, hydro and tidal flow freely over the globe with some areas having more exposure to some types than others. Rather than each area or country thinking local and developing separate regional power systems to produce, consume and store just energy captured within their own borders, interconnecting regions and pumping the growing plethora of the earth’s clean energy sources into continental and even inter-continental supergrids (akin to the global internet into which we all plug) is the next wave of big picture solutions.

Individuals can still have personal systems (ie Powerwalls) to capture and store energy for their own homes and electric vehicle recharge, but for the bigger communal, infrastructure needs, or to service areas that are under-powered, inter-regional systems make enormous sense.  In fact many inter-regional sharing grids are in place in North America and Europe already.  For examples, and to learn more, read:  First steps to a global supergrid here.

Reports abound of homeowners and businesses unplugging from the power grid and opting instead to generate and store their own electricity. Such grid defections may make sense in places where electricity rates are sky-high or service is spotty. But for just about everywhere else, it’s far more sensible to do the very opposite: interconnect regional electricity networks to form a globe-spanning supergrid.

What makes this idea so compelling are the major strains on today’s power grids: soaring energy demand in fast-growing megacities; rapid expansion of carbon-free but intermittent wind and solar power; and the ever-increasing need to secure grids against electronic and physical attacks. The smaller and more isolated a power network is, the more difficult it is to maintain the nearly instantaneous balance between electricity supply and demand.

But the technology now exists to transmit massive amounts of electricity over long distances without significant losses, thereby allowing operators to balance consumption and generation across an entire continent—or, potentially, the globe.

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