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What is the power grid and how does it work?

When people go without power during widespread outages, it seems like discussions turn toward the power grid. But what exactly is the power grid, and how does it work? In the U.S., the power system consists of more than 9,200 electric generating units with more than 1 million megawatts of generating capacity connected to more than 600,000 miles of transmission lines, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.