How does the electrical grid work, and what happens when it breaks?

I used to host a daily show about new digital technology that intended to illustrate and explain how our lives were being revolutionized by computers, the Internet, smart phones, etc.  But in the back of my mind I always thought the bigger revolution was the juice that made every single device and network run.  Electricity.

A lineman from the Rural Electrification Administration hangs a power line. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

So I’m eager to listen to MPR News Presents today at noon.  Public radio veteran Alex Chadwick hosts a special report about the nation’s electric distribution grid — how it works, its history, and innovations to meet the challenge of linking new sources of energy like wind and solar to the electric grid.

Crews like the National Grid workmen are on the front lines of grid repair when something goes wrong with the system. (Photo courtesy of JT Thomas)

More about The Switch: A BURN special on the nation’s electrical grid in this video:

Listen live at noon today.  And for your electricity-based digital convenience, you can listen here: