Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NATIONAL ENERGY AWARENESS MONTH - The Smart Grid: Part 1

This is the first in a 3-part series on the smart grid.  What it is and what it means for your family.


The word “smart” conjures up immediate images.  School, tests, witty friends, Fox TV’s “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”, rich, fast, Einstein, grid.  And, for me, the 11 year old in the audition waiting room who tells me “My I.Q. is 149.”  Hmmm.  Wait, grid?

Yes.  “Smart grid” is now ready to enter celebrity status.  It’s a term you’ll likely hear more and more.   It is expected to alter how you think about power, and it will probably change your utility bill and affect your pocketbook. 

First, grid.  “The grid” is the infrastructure of our current power system – power lines, meters, control centers, energy sources, and utility companies. 

Second, smart grid.  This is an effort by the U.S. government and utility companies to upgrade our grid – make it smarter and more efficient, largely through technological upgrades and new transmission lines.   Federal stimulus money has been allocated to accelerate the smart grid’s development.  National Geographic recently did a beautiful graphic on where these upgrades are proposed to be - link.

WHAT’S THE SMART DEAL?

The smart grid is expected to …



  •  Change things up: Solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources are expected to be integrated into the new smart grid system.  This is anticipated to help us reduce our carbon footprint and decrease coal and oil energy dependence.
  •  Keep the lights on: Ironically, one of the smart grid’s highlights is that it is meant to avoid power outages due to better sensing and re-routing of power loads.  Blackouts cost businesses money and can also be dangerous for security and health reasons.
  •  Take tech to a new level: Technology upgrades to the grid make power usage more efficient and allows power produced in non-peak hours to be stored for a day and time when it is needed.  This lessens the need to build more power plants.
  •  Have a built-in bodyguard:  The smart grid decentralizes power and, instead, makes a series of power networks that communicate with and help each other.  So, a major storm hitting a power plant 200 miles away from you wouldn’t bring the power down because local and regional power sources can now immediately make up the difference for you and for those 200 miles away.
  •  Produce less gunk: With even a five percent increase in the nation’s energy efficiency, the U.S. can eliminate fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars.

Tomorrow ... how your family benefits -- PART 2.

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