Numlock Sunday: Peter Fairley on the Seams of the Grid

By Walt Hickey

Welcome to the Numlock Sunday edition. Each week, I'll sit down with an author or a writer behind one of the stories covered in a previous weekday edition for a casual conversation about what they wrote.

This week, I spoke to Peter Fairley who wrote “How a Plan to Save the Power System Disappeared” for The Atlantic and InvestigateWest. Here's what I wrote about it:

The U.S. power grid is not really one grid, but rather an enormous Eastern grid, a Western grid, and a Texas grid. While the Eastern and Western grids have 950 gigawatts of power generation across thousands of plants total, just one gigawatt can go from one to the other because there are just seven ancient power stations that coordinate the flow between them. This makes it hard to respond to broad energy needs because the grids can’t collaborate and lend slack during times of need. A $1.6 million study figured out how to engineer that to a better position and the possible outcomes, especially with a carbon pric…

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