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The microgrid would make the power grid more resilient to storms — and squirrels.

For the past century, we’ve powered our world using the same basic model. Power is generated from large power plants, sent down transmission lines, and eventually delivered to the end user. But this has meant that something as small as a squirrel can cause massive blackouts. In fact, this happens all the time.

It’s not just squirrels. Wildfires and storms can also cause massive blackouts. And it’s because we rely on this centralized power system.

But there is a better way to power the world: a decentralized system, where power is no longer just generated from big power plants. Rather, it’s a system where homes, neighborhoods, and even military bases generate their own power, and can send that power back up into the larger grid. This means there isn’t just a single point of failure, and it also makes it much easier to incorporate greener sources of energy.

These are called microgrids.

This isn’t the most intuitive thing to understand, which is why we worked with Vox energy reporter Umair Irfan to explain this system, using candy and construction paper.

To read more about microgrids, check out this piece on how microgrids work, and this piece on how microgrids could’ve protected against blackouts during the California wildfires.

To watch more Vox videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Author: Alvin Chang

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