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Thursday, March 18 2021
11:00am - 12:00pm
Online
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Dr. Julie Cohn - The World’s Largest Interconnected Machine: A Short History of Our Electric Power Grid

Please join us in listening Dr. Cohn on the topic of "The World’s Largest Interconnected Machine: A Short History of Our Electric Power Grid."

On a nearly daily basis, Americans hear news reports about “the grid”: how green it is or should be, whether it is too old or too big or not big enough for future power needs, and why it failed recently in Texas. This casual use of the term “grid” belies the complexity of North America’s electric power systems. Further, it is a misnomer - we have no national grid, nor have we ever. Instead, we have four major interconnected power systems that provide electricity to most power users in the United States, Canada, and parts of Mexico. This presentation will examine how small links between power companies in the late 1890s grew into giant networks that operate in perfect synchrony, most of the time, in the twenty-first century. It will cover some of the technical challenges, “big data” types of problems, and power control issues system operators faced over the course of the twentieth century, and will ask some questions about where we might be headed in the future. And, there will be a brief diversion to touch upon the power outages during the recent Winter Storm Uri, an exceptional type of blackout experience.