How Our Power Lines Will Handle Everyone's Power from the Sun

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By Michael A. Cohen

Here, I'm writing about what I study in an "up-goer five" way; that is, I'm using only the ten hundred most used words to make it as easy as possible for everyone to understand!
Michael helping to put sun power on top of a house

I study power lines. Not the big power lines you see on a long car trip that carry power a long way, but the smaller lines that bring power to your home. You can see them on your street, if they're not under ground! I also study some other parts that are on the power lines that help them work. Some parts look like big cans up high next to the lines. Other ones you don't see very much because they're behind a big wall to keep them safe, but they're all needed to get power from the place where it's made to your home.

Why do I study power lines and the things that help them work? Today, more and more people are putting things up on their houses that turn the sun's light into power. This is great because power from the sun is very clean; some other ways that we make power can hurt trees, animals and people by making our air, land and water less clean. But there is a problem: the power lines that are close to our houses were made to bring power to us from far away, and they may not work right when the power goes from our houses back up the line instead.

Some things about sun power might be good for the power lines. One good thing is that if some of the power we use comes from the sun, less power has to come down the lines. So maybe we can use smaller lines and pay less to build them when we have more sun power. But some things about sun power might be bad. They could make too much power in one spot on a day with a lot of sun. A lot of power in one place could break the things in our houses that use the power, like our computers.

We don't know which is more important: the good things or the bad things that sun power might do to power lines. Or maybe they're about the same. To find out, I'm using fast computers to make working pictures of many different power lines that can tell us what sun power will do to them. So far it looks to me like the good things can be bigger than the bad things, but the answer can be very different for different kinds of power lines in different places. It also matters a lot how many people on the line have sun power; a little is probably good, but a lot can cause more problems.

Once I'm done looking at what sun power does to power lines, I also want to see if it would help if we could store the sun power at the houses. Then we could use the power when ever we need it, instead of just when the sun is bright. I hope that the things I learn will help us get as much power as we can from the sun, without breaking anything or needing to pay too much money.

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