You may already know this, but our power grid system has been largely left alone for half a century. We’re using inefficient grid technology to try to thread power across our country and in the process are losing precious energy and a lot of cash. As part of the infamous American Reinvestment and Recovery Act–or Stimulus–Obama smartly set aside 3.4 billion dollars to invest in smart grid technology in 2010 and beyond. That block of funding was matched by industry money and private investment to total over $8 billion in funding for everything from installation of smart meters to funding for manufacturing processes.
The first wave of the project includes installation of 18 million smart meters in about 13 percent of America’s homes. This will allow the energy industry to use this information as educational tools to help individual homeowners to monitor their energy usage and run smart appliances at times when the grid is not at peak use. This will save them money and will save the energy industry from having to run costly “stand-by” power plants that are generally run with dirty coal.
The funding will also help implement broadband technology across the whole of the grid system to allow smart software to correctly distribute and call for power across the country. Part of the problem of our current system is it is a system that acts without thinking. Power is supplied almost blindly to the grid and extra power lost. If a windy day in the California desert is creating a huge supply of wind power there is little technology at hand to use that power to turn down traditional power plants and allow the clean energy to replace it. Broadband technology will allow technicians to monitor power supply and demand and call for traditional plants to turn down their production when other energy supplies are at hand.
In order to help in the effort of correctly monitoring and creating power they are also funding projects to connect different parts of the grid to increase communication so power can travel greater distances. By installing smart meters, syncrophasors, automated substations, and smart transformers this project will bring together our formerly separated system of power. For instance the grid in Tuscon, Arizona is relatively close to San Diego, California but if the technology is different it’s possible that they can’t share power and therefore if there is excess it might go to waste. This effort will eliminate blackouts and brownouts and the costs associated with such issues.
The project also includes infrastructure for electric vehicles, funding for smart appliances, funding for the jump-start of manufacturing green energy tech and research and development of new renewable energy resources. All in all this 8 Billion will go a long way for our future. It will jump start our economy, get us on the road to a real “Power Grid 2.0” and help us save money by implementing the green technology that we are so desperately in need of.