The Grid: Electrical Infrastructure for a New Era
This is a well-researched book, but seems disorganized. It felt like it jumped around a lot, especially between scopes – from macro to micro.
The major points I learned:
Electricity is unlike any other resource in that it’s not a storable thing. When you use it, it was generated a fraction of a second prior. Electricity doesn’t “travel” like, say, water or gas; it just…is
We’re terrible at storing energy. We have very, very few examples of “grid-scale” storage. Electricity has to be constantly generated, all the time. Power plants are designed – both physically and economically – to be run full-bore, all the time.
You can’t store electricity. You can store chemicals that can be combined to make electricity, and you can store physical movements (like hydropower) that can be used to make electricity in the future. But you cannot store actual electricity.
Running the grid is a never-ending process of balancing load. Our needs as consumers go up and down throughout the day, and the grid is not happy about this.
Renewables are problematic because they’re not constant. If clouds come over, solar panels generate less power, and something needs to pick up the slack in seconds. Given that we can’t store electricity, that’s a problem.
The military in the field uses a stunning amount of fuel to generate electricity. Camps run on diesel generators. One report says that 70% of fuel is used just to move fuel around, and 80% of vulnerable convoys are moving fuel. It takes eight gallons of diesel to support one solider in the field for one day.
The grid is old. It’s coming to pieces. Stuff breaks all the time.
Also, the author’s writing is weirdly stylized for the subject. This is pretty dry, and the writing gets lyrical and even philosophical in places.
So, good book overall, but I struggled to get my head around it in places.