We as a planet are only as good as our grid when it comes to sustainable energy development. We can build the best wind farms and solar projects but if our grid is antiquated, that power will never reach the citizens of Earth. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu knows this full well and that’s why he just announced an $8.5 million investment from the Department of Energy into new solar smart grid technology. The investment will go toward 4 late stage projects and will be matched on a better than 1 to 1 scale by the labs receiving the cash — the total investment by government and private sector will be over $20 million.

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Smart grids are an integral part of the new energy future. They use digital technology to monitor and transport energy across wide areas in order to make the best use of what is being created at any point in time. Renewable energy is sometimes unreliable — just like the weather — and therefore making the best of what we have at a certain moment is critical to renewable energy success. Smart grids are able to not only measure how much energy is being created but where it is most needed and in what quantity. The digital technology is therefore able to send out energy in the most efficient way possible.

Continuing to support solar and grid technologies is necessary in order for America to maintain its competitive edge in the clean energy industries,” said Secretary Chu about the investment. “These types of projects will help ensure that our efforts to advance renewable energy and support the modernization of our electrical grid are coordinated and integrated, helping to provide Americans with reliable, clean energy at lower costs.” This latest investment will be heading toward Florida Solar Energy Center of the University of Central Florida for shared converter research, to Petra Solar South of Plainfield, New Jersey for modular inverters that lower costs while increasing reliability, to Princeton Power of Princeton, New Jersey for their “Demand Response Inverter” and to PVPowered of Bend, Oregon to their late stage research into advanced communication technologies that will help power travel efficiently over long distances from plant to home.

+ Read the Department of Energy’s Release