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The Grid Audiobook

The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future

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Publisher's Summary

The grid is an accident of history and of culture, in no way intrinsic to how we produce, deliver and consume electrical power. Yet this is the system the United States ended up with, a jerry-built structure now so rickety and near collapse that a strong wind or a hot day can bring it to a grinding halt.

The grid is now under threat from a new source: renewable and variable energy, which puts stress on its logics as much as its components.

In an entertaining, perceptive and deeply researched fashion, cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke uses the history of an increasingly outdated infrastructure to show how the United States has gone from seemingly infinite technological prowess to a land of structural instability. She brings humor and a bright eye to contemporary solutions and to the often surprising ways in which these succeed or fail. And the consequences of failure are significant.

Our national electrical grid grew during an era when monopoly, centralisation and standardisation meant strength. Yet as we've increasingly become a nation that caters to local needs, and as a plethora of new renewable energy sources comes online, our massive system is dangerously out of step.

Charting the history of our electrical grid, Bakke helps us see what we all take for granted, shows it as central to our culture and identity as a people and reveals it to be the linchpin in our aspirations for a clean-energy future.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2016 Gretchen Bakke (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Terra72 London, UK 09/01/2017
    Terra72 London, UK 09/01/2017 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
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    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Poor introduction to an important subject"
    If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Someone with no prior knowledge of the energy sector might find it useful. However, I suspect most readers will be frustrated by the writing style and the complete lack of pace.


    Any additional comments?

    I purchased this audiobook because it was on Bill Gates's recommended list for 2016 and I have a personal and professional interest in the subject.
    I made it 1/3 of the way through the book before abandoning. It is excessively repetitive, full of long, flowery sentences that add little to understanding.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • J. Pegg
    22/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Needed more... and less"

    I thought "The Grid" needed more scientific and infrastructural background, and perhaps less personal opinion on the motivations of power companies.

    From reading the description, my hope had been to learn more about how the Grid came to be, how power distribution works (albeit at a high level), what kinds of challenges face us today, and innovative ideas for how we address them tomorrow. Unfortunately, very little time was spent on how it came to be, and even less on how it really works. Challenges were outlined but not detailed. Tomorrow's technologies were mentioned but not adequately explored. While I didn't expect the book to go TOO deep into these topics, I was definitely hoping for more.

    One distraction throughout the book was the continual assertions of nefarious (her word) motivations on the part of electric companies. I have no doubt that some have questionable motives, just as some hospitals have questionable motives. But to put all of them into the same profit-grabbing bucket without supporting evidence does them an injustice and reinforces the "us vs. them" mentality she says is so prevalent today. I'm not saying there aren't bad actors out there, or even that most are good. But evidence backing her assertions would have helped. She did point out evidence against Enron, but even she admits they weren't an energy producer. It would have been good to see more evidence for claiming profiteering was a principal motivator for today's power companies.

    As I mentioned, the motivations were a distraction, but if you can listen past them, then I think there's still interesting information regarding how the various entities are set up, how regulations come about, etc. None of it is particularly deep, but it can make for good background listening. And I thought the reader did a fine job with the material.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Ronald
    Wilmette, IL, United States
    24/09/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A disappointment"
    Any additional comments?

    After I heard Gretchen Bakke interviewed on Fresh Air, I could not wait to read this book, so I downloaded it the day it was released. The book did not meet my expectations. It was about as non-technical as such a book could get. There were minimal explanations of important concepts such as cutting edge storage technologies, including battery storage. Most of the discussion revolved around soft topics repeated over and over again, such as that people want wireless devices and hope for wireless charging. The book did explain some of the basic problems with the grid, including that electricity cannot be stored and that its supply must always equal its demand. It did make clear that renewables such as solar and wind are a problem when the sun sets or the wind calms and their adapters suddenly need electricity from old forms of generation.
    In general, the style of writing alternated between wordy, tedious repetition and trying to be silly or cute. Similar to so many books written these days, this one would have benefitted form some better editing.
    During her interview, it came out that the author is an anthropologist, not an engineer. Perhaps she should have collaborated with an engineer or even a science writer. For me, I had hope for much more technical information about the present and future than Bakke provided.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew A. Robinson
    Champaign, IL USA
    21/10/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good overview and very up to date"
    What did you love best about The Grid?

    I loved how up to date this book is and how it explains the electrical grid in a post-deregulation world. The chapters about early grid history and the Cater years were my favorites.


    Any additional comments?

    The first chapter was an overview that seemed a little too sensational and a little too flowery in it's language. Then the author hits her stride in the second chapter and it only gets better from there.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Charlie
    San Luis Obispo, CA, United States
    15/05/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Biased"
    What disappointed you about The Grid?

    The story is biased in favor of coal and nuclear (to an extent). It denigrates renewables as dangerous to the grid. It was full of statements and opinions, but few facts, although it was a nice elementary primer on basic electricity and transmission.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Padraic Mangan
    09/05/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "not what was expected"

    knowing little to nothing going into the book I was extremely surprised and happy with how much I learned and hour much I cared by the end. great book!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    03/05/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Anthropology and Electricity"

    Dr. Bakke presents an enjoyable narration of the history of America's grid and a discussion of its present and future challenges. Written in an anthropological lens, The Grid paints a picture of the landscape of the electric power industry as one with many layers. Dr. Bakke makes a compelling point that the Grid is not merely the physical components of the enormous electricity backbone but one also intrinsically interconnected to legal frameworks, cultural nuances, business agendas, etc. This book is worth every centavo.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nathan Burnham
    28/02/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good information"

    This book had good information about the history, along with commercial and political interests.

    The information was not strung out. I was probably they right Information density for the casual reader. I personally would have preferred it to be a bit denser.

    The book went only a little bit bast the surface with technical electrical Information as well.

    Overall it was good information and was not boring.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • PoeticLicensedk
    08/02/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Paradigm shifting must read"

    The concept of the virtual power plant needs to go viral. A timely read. My thinking has changed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • terry
    23/01/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Read this"

    Bigger problem than you know and missing and mostly adversarial and conflicted solutions. Our electrically addicted lives are at stake.
    We need to know the issues and advocate for wise solutions. No easy answers.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • gail gillies
    Charlotte, NC, US
    11/01/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I didn't want to leave my car!"

    a very insightful book on how America came to have the power grid we do today and just how difficult it will be to improve and protect.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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