The piercing siren of your alarm rouses you from a restful sleep just like it does every morning. You go about your morning routine of showering, dressing, prepping, and walk out the door to … your horse drawn carriage …
No. You open your door to a modern automobile.
Believe it or not, there is an utterly basic aspect of your everyday life that is as outdated as a horse drawn carriage, “The Grid.”
“The Grid,” which began its life in the 1890’s, is defined as “The series of transmission lines, transformers and substations that deliver power from the 9,200 or so power generation stations across the United States through the 300,000 miles of power lines”. All just to deliver power to that very alarm clock nemesis that woke you up today.
To say the power grid is outdated is like saying that the ocean is wet.
But thankfully in a world of “smart” houses, phones and cars, “The “Grid” is on its way to being added to the smart list.
“OK, So What is the Smart Grid?”
In very simple terms it is a network, not unlike the internet, of two-way communication not only between consumers and providers, but along the entire transmission path.
The heart of Smart Grid technology lies in “Smart Meters.” Smart meters emit a radio frequency containing your power usage statistics back to the utility provider on a much more frequent basis. This allows utility providers the ability to monitor the need for electricity and run the power plants accordingly. Finally, gone are the days of Meter Readers prowling around our backyards and freaking our pets out. Subsequently, I bet the number of dog bites on utility employees plummeted as well.
On top of smart meters, technology is being applied to the substations, and even the pole mounted transformers to increase their efficiency. By networking all of the components of power delivery, utility providers get a real-time picture of usage and delivery. Imagine a power outage that can be fixed with a mouse click instead of scores of workers tracing down a blown transformer.
“So What Do We Gain From the Smart Grid?”
The biggest benefit from the Smart Grid is the increase in efficiency. Under proposed plans, the Smart Grid could provide a 9% increase in overall efficiency across the board. That 9% translates to savings of 423 billion kilowatt-hours, or if you are an economist: 42 billion dollars.
Financial figures aside, another very important aspect of the Smart Grid is the ability to integrate future energy sources into the existing power grid. Integration of solar and wind technologies is a huge factor in their viability, and the implementation of a smarter power grid solves that problem. Adding a solar panel to your house or office by tying it into a smarter power grid allows the current power providers to re-direct the power to other users with instant efficiency.
This All Sounds Great, But Who Foots The Bill?”