For the first time anywhere on Earth, UK scientists have successfully transmitted data through a national electricity grid. The achievement marks a leap toward ‘virtual’ power grids which allow homes and businesses to use energy more wisely. Because the system uses the electricity grid itself to send data signals, the technology can be installed and implemented quickly and without the need for additional infrastructure. In a test of 20 receivers on UK’s national grid, 100 percent of the signals sent were successfully received.

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Technology like this could help people lower their energy bills, cut peaks in energy use that strain the grid, and reduce or even eliminate the need for dirty generators that are often employed to supply extra energy during peak times. The new Grid Data and Measurement System (GDMS) was developed by Reactive Technologies (RT).

It works a little bit like a smart thermostat, which monitors usage and sends signals to lower temperature settings in order to conserve energy. On the scale of the national electricity grid, the new data system could instruct a freezer to make a 0.5C temperature increase, or it could signal a water heater to power up in the middle of the night when utility rates are lower. Although the system works with meters reading energy usage, the data is logged anonymously, so homeowners and building managers need not worry about their privacy.

Related: Energy 101: What is a smart grid?

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Reducing energy consumption translates into less wasted energy, boosting the efficiency of the overall grid while promising a direct financial benefit for end users. The UK government’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) estimates that a smart virtual grid could save consumers $9.8 billion (£8bn) each year by 2030. Across a country of 64 million people, that’s a substantial difference.

Smart power technology also helps reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based generators, which are often called into action to supply surplus energy during peak usage times. By making smarter use of electricity already flowing through the national grid, the RT data system promises to reduce the strain of peak times by directing all sorts of power-drawing devices, from home appliances to commercial HVAC systems, to run during off-peak times instead.

Via The Guardian

Images via National Grid and Reactive Technologies