The summer months are heating up, and the record-breaking temperatures have been made especially painful with the power outages that have plagued the mid-Atlantic states in 2012. With all the power outages has come the question: is there a way to make our power grids more reliable?
While many new neighborhoods decide to bury their power lines to prevent trees and winds from knocking them down, some communities are going so far as to build so-called "smart grids". At this point, these smart grids are only in trial communities, but soon they could be a standard feature in new neighborhoods everywhere.
These grids differ from traditional grids in that every piece of the grid is constantly monitored by a computer or other technology. This means that when the power goes out, a computer will be able to pin-point exactly where the outage happened so that it can be fixed promptly. Currently, workers have to look for these problems manually, which makes repairs slower.
In this video, science correspondent Miles O'Brien looks at one community in Texas where these smart grids are making a difference.
"When you have a mechanical grid of mechanical devices that have to be individually read and something goes wrong, well, how do you find out about it?" - Brewster McCracken, executive director, Pecan Street Project.
1. What is a power grid? What does it do?
2. What is a power outage? What might cause one?
1. Do you think that smart grids will be more environmentally friendly than traditional grids? Why or why not?
2. What do you think are some barriers preventing smart grids from being put into more neighborhoods?
3. Should the federal government be funding research into smart grid technology? Why or why not?