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As an essential fixture of modern society, electricity is often taken for granted. In many cases, it becomes invisible or is ignored until it is not there or it is time to pay the electric bill. Electricity has been around for well over a century, and the march of industry and progress have created the most complex interconnected system in existence. In a delicate balancing act, the amount of electricity generation must track the amount consumed to prevent the system from collapsing, as there is only very limited storage capacity on the grid. The balance is maintained via a combination of predictions and control systems distributed across the grid. How well this balance is maintained produces signals that propagate across the entire system from the large generators to the wall outlets that are ubiquitous across the world. Observing these signals can provide a great deal of insight into the current status and operation of the power grid and can be done cheaply and accurately from inside a home or office.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2012