The North American electric grid is an immense feat of engineering and often referred to as the largest and most complex machine in the world. When we discuss ‘the grid’ we are typically referring to the entire system in the abstract, including all the power plants, wires, and related equipment that deliver electricity to our homes and businesses every day.
But electrical networks can come in all shapes and sizes to meet the particular needs of diverse customers and communities. And there are meaningful distinctions in the terminology used to describe these different networks, like supergrid, minigrid, microgrid, nanogrid, and, of course, just ‘the grid’.
There are at least a dozen different ways to build, operate, and quantify an electric system — from a single building to networks that cover entire countries or even transnational regions — and each classification has a role to play in the integrated electricity network of the future.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common types and the ways we are all impacted by the rapidly evolving electric grid.