Can We Power the World With a Single Energy Grid?


If you look at a map of the US power grid,
it looks like a spider web blanketing the entire country. It’s a patchwork that formed after communities
that got their power locally were slowly stitched together to create a massive network. So could we scale that up even bigger? Could we connect the entire world with power
lines? What would that do for us, and what would
it look like? The most obvious technological hurdle is transmitting
power over extremely long distances, which is something of a recurring theme. Back in the 1880s, when the first power plants
were coming online, Nikola Tesla’s alternating current duked it out with Thomas Edison’s
direct current in the war of the currents, the original AC/DC. Alternating current means the electrons in
the wire reverse direction rapidly, while direct current provides a steady stream of
elections. AC eventually won out because at the time
it was easier to convert AC power to higher or lower voltages, and higher voltages are
needed to travel longer distances with less energy loss due to resistance. Direct Current has another disadvantage. At higher voltages, DC could only be used
to send electricity from Point A to Point B. It couldn’t form the sprawling integrated
grid networks we need for a stable electricity system. So in this match, it’s Tesla – 1, Edison
– 0. But fast forward to the present day, and DC
is making a comeback. Not just because it’s everywhere, since
our phones, laptops, and anything with a battery runs on it. It’s also because it’s become a more viable
method for long distance power transmission, thanks in large part to China’s geography. Most of China’s population is concentrated
in the eastern part of the country, more than 2,000 kilometers away from most of the country’s
sources of coal in the northwest and hydroelectric power in the southwest. Typical AC power lines with a voltage as high
as 765,000 volts have a max transmission distance under 500 kilometers. To generate power in one place and send it
across the country, the voltage would have to go up. So the government-owned utility State Grid
of China collaborated with experts in high voltage power transmission, like German company
Siemens and the Swedish power group ABB, not to be confused with the other Swedish power
group, ABBA. Soon State Group surpassed the other companies
and started developing their own high voltage transformers and power lines. In 2009, they built a million volt AC line,
and in 2010 they built the world’s first 800,000 volt DC power line. By the end of 2017 they had 21 ultra high
voltage lines crisscrossing the country, and they’re thinking even bigger. Right now they’re constructing a 1.1 million
volt transmission line that can carry the output of 12 power plants 3,200 kilometers. Couple that with ABB’s development of high
voltage DC circuit breakers that can allow for a grid structure and Siemens’ claim
that DC lines cost less than AC lines over a certain distance, and you’ve got the foundations
for a global grid and a Thomas Edison comeback for the ages. That would allow for some pretty nifty tricks,
like taking energy from solar panels that are in a part of the world that’s sunny,
and zipping it to other parts of the world where it’s dark. It could actually make renewable energy that’s
generated in remote areas more viable. It’s not that outlandish, in 2016 the US
actually had plans to send wind energy to Tennessee that was generated in Oklahoma. Why Oklahoma? Because that’s where the wind comes sweeping
down the plain. Showtunes aside, State Grid even claims a
global grid could harness wind power generated at the north pole and solar energy generated
at the equator. And if it’s DC, we could ditch those AC/DC
converters your electronics need that get all hot and waste about 1/5th of your household’s
energy. A global DC grid is a green dream! Will it ever happen? Almost definitely not. The cost would be astronomical, over 50 trillion
dollars, and the politics are way too messy. Control of a country’s power grid is a major
national security issue, and any entity that built, owned, or operated another country’s
power supply would be extremely… um… powerful. So a global grid is a really cool idea…
that’ll probably never happen. Resistance is a big problem in energy grids,
but superconductors could solve that, Maren’ll tell you all about them here. Though a global grid is unlikely, State Grid
has signed a deal with companies in Japan, Korea, and Russia with the goal of creating
an Northeast Asian “super grid.” Think it’ll happen? Let us know in the comments and subscribe
while you’re down there. Thanks for watching Seeker!

100 comments

So the world can't work together to solve a world problem? How is that impossible? Everyone would benefit from that right? We should remove the things or people in charge who make it impossible then! If we all asked for it we will all get it ๐Ÿ’ฏ #BordersAreJustLines

Dude you know nothing. AC isn't going anywhere. DC makes only sense in long distance transmission due to capacitive energy loss. Tesla was right. You there is no way to transform voltage efficiently on a dc system. Even on UHVDC transmission lines the power must be inverted to ac before the voltage is stepped down. Don't worry, your dc charging bocks aren't going anywhere.

Great video, in addition to being informative and interesting I loved ALL the jokes and your broadway moment lol ๐Ÿ™‚

Why not use lasers to transmit energy over vast distances? No need for wires and nearly lossless transmission in air at the right frequencies.

A global electrical grid is a really stupid idea. It would waste untold amounts of power and resources, would offer no real benefit (power can be generated anywhere on earth easaly enough) and hackers would have a field day fu- err messing around with it.

This is just bad reasoning, it can be traded and doesn't have to be connected in an uncontrolled manner, the receiver can decide how much goes in, the sender can decide how much goes out and the cost can be repayed by the trade benifits it provides

Edison stole most of the inventions he takes credit for he did invent the electric chair which runs on direct current.

So basically we have the technology to make the whole thing work just fine the sticking point is asshole capitalism and politics. What else is new. This is why capitalism is verging on dying it can't solve the climate crisis or anything else for that matter it just makes things steadily worse. So what do we try next AI ontrolled socialism? AI could feasibly organize things for us with no favoritism or trend to dictatorial control since an AI wouldn't care about that.

holy shit I asked myself that yesterday. If you combine with solar, there is always a sunny side. However transmission losses will be huge

The problems of a single grid were made clear in 2003 when a combination of a technician error and a power plant shutdown caused a cascade failure that knocked out power for 55 Million people.

No thanks, especially if it's controlled by CHina. Don't need to contribute anymore to their plans of world domination. Europe, USA and the rest of the West can do this between themselves.

The question is less important than how to produce and store electricity. If you have it in abundance, then you can sweat on transmission. If you win the Irish sweepstakes first, then you can bother with how you spend it.

Beam energy down from solar cells in space, into a no go zone area, where the energy is converted to electricity etc. BIG project.

Edison was satan incarnate. Please eat a pie or steak or more veggie protein if you're so inclined. I can see inside your skull : /

First ORRRDARR

If the goal is a single energy grid( or electrical energy market) we could just launch an array of microwave transmitting electricity relays.

susutainable development , rip. and the murderer – politics ….what is money when compared with peace along with development
we have ideas for most of the problems . and i dunno about politics

At 3:30 you talk about ditching the AC to DC conversion that gets hot. This is extremely misleading suggesting that the DC does not need conversion. Who uses the 800,000VDC in China without conversion? HV for transmission. LV for usage especially homes so conversion is necessary regardless of the AC or DC. You want to make this argument compare the efficiencies of AC and DC step up at the plant and step down at the end user. AC is better but the losses in transmission is where DC shines and that is what is making DC a viable option.

Just implement communism world wide. According to the left that's how you pay for 32 trillion in healthcare. so why not power too?

"Siemens" only sounds like "semen" when an american pronouces it. I'm german, I'm 33, it's a really well known company here, my first mobile phone even was from Siemens and in my whole life I never realized that it could sound like semen if you pronouce it wrong.

3:29 Wait, what? That makes no sense. Yes, those power adapters get hot and lose energy. But that's mainly because they have to transform 120V/220V into something like 12V or 5V and not because they have to convert AC into DC. The latter one is pretty simple and is only done with 4 diodes and a few capacitors. But you were talking about higher voltages than usual in this video and not about lower voltages.

Also, it wouldn't be practical to get just a single voltage from your socket. The different voltages devices need are 3.3V, 5V, 12V, 24V, … So we still would need to transform the voltage down (or up) for most of the devices. Of course, if we get closer to the voltage we actually need then less energy is wasted as heat …

… in our house. It's still wasted somewhere else.

I had this idea before and the lecturer at my university talked about the same problem: Politics.
So perhaps this would be an interesting solution for the first exoplanet we colonize (which I think is more likely than terraforming Mars).
That's just one reason why I think colonizing other planets would be such a big chance. We could completely start at the beginning after we learned from our mistakes and avoid doing them again.

Just had a thought, If a global energy grid was to be made then wouldn't the issue of the duck curve go away? All curves would be at different times to each other and average out.

Yes, oddly enough we can build an global electricity network, if we can iron out to transmit electricity over 1000's
of miles over land and sea, we can use the same technology that transmit eletricity, radio, tv ,satellite
communication and Internet, a global wireless power grid that any home, business, or vehicle could tap into at will, on the go.The trick is that the powerplant will generate only a modest output of 380V with a minimal loss of just 1mV every 1000 miles.

There's no reason to have a global power grid. All that would do is cause more blackouts and be more terrorist attack points. And the politics would be so messy. Don't forget how lossy power infrastructure is in general. Batteries are a better solution. Just keep the energy there and use it later.

More than likely it will be like the Internet where there exchangers along the way to solve most of these issues. Cost and efficiency is probably what's killing it.

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

No mention of the admittedly ill-fated DESERTEC project? It was a planned European-Northafrican supergrid. I think it's inevitable that these grids develop over time. The economic incentives are just too great.

China developed these ultra high voltage transmission lines so they can BURN MORE COAL at a lower price … this is China's plan for moving away from Oil, LOL???

Bravo! A video that brings hope.
I see no reason to push for a single power grid; however, the DC is encouraging for those regions that can implement it.

Using Earth as a clean generator is one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time. I believe someday we may get there. But it's not going to happen anytime soon.

Man this dude would be perfect for a live action pinky and the brain show! Am I wrong for saying that… maybe but I had to say it.

This is the kind of inspiring idea the world needs now because we have to admit storage is still too much a problem with green energy. If your country is fed and stabilized from multiple sources around you, I don't see the national security factor. Belgium relies for gas already totally on import. It makes the world even safer because we never had war in Europe after WW2 because countries rely too much on each other and after a while, war seems a costly absurd idea to solve problems. The cost of the grid can seem a problem but on the other hand savings have no interest now and investing for ordinary people in such a grid would deliver a return

I think we could de-messify the politics on this, Seeker. If the world grid were owned by local non-profit consumer cooperatives, it would be a public interest utility rather than a profit-maximizing neoliberal ripoff that many utilities are today. It would also be the key to survival in the event of a random 10 km asteroid getting bumped out of the Kuiper or Asteroid belts and heading for us. Or another source of a decade of nuclear winter darkness, a caldera blowout from a super volcano exploding. If we can get Gen IV nuclear as the energy source for this grid, we would be in a much more secure position that we would be if we left civilization to chance in such situations.

Look the energy grids are already in place and have been for millennia it is no accident all pyramids are built on top of energy grids of the earth. In days of old they powered the whole entire earth for every thing communication transportation and so on. They don't tell you this on main stream news or even here .but it is fact they do not want this info out. Just for kicks have a look at anti gravity and the world grid byDavid Hatcher Childress. Good book may open your eyes a little farther .

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