Commercialization of electric power began early in the 20th century. With the light bulb revolution and the promise of the electric motor, demand for electric power exploded, sparking the rapid development of an effective distribution system. At first, small utility companies provided power to local industrial plants and private communities. Some larger businesses even generated their own power. Seeking greater efficiency and distribution, utility companies pooled their resources, sharing transmission lines and quickly forming electrical networks called grids.
George Westinghouse boosted the industry with his hydroelectric power plant in Niagra Falls. His was the first to provide power over long distances, extending the range of power plant positioning. He also proved electricity to be the most effective form of power transmission. As the utility business expanded, local grids grew increasingly interconnected, eventually forming the three national grids that provide power to nearly every denizen of the continental US. The Eastern Interconnect, the Western Interconnect, and the Texas Interconnect are linked themselves and form what we refer to as the national power grid.
Technological improvements of the power system largely rose in the 50s and 60s, post World War II. Nuclear power, computer controls, and other developments helped fine tune the grid’s effectiveness and operability. Although today’s technology has flown light-years into the future, the national power grid has not kept up pace with modernization. The grid has evolved little over the past fifty years.
The government is keen on overhauling the current electrical system to 21st century standards. With today’s technology, the power grid can become a smart grid, capable of recording, analyzing and reacting to transmission data, allowing for more efficient management of resources, and more cost-effective appliances for consumers. This project requires major equipment upgrades, rewiring, and implementation of new technology. The process will take time, but improvements have already begun to surface. Miami will be the first major city with a smart grid system. We are witnessing a new stage of technological evolution, taking us into a brighter, cleaner future.