The Smart Grid

| 6/8/2010 5:43:31 AM

Tags: smart grid, smart meter, smart metering, net metering, alternative energy,

Our current power grids are dumb.

They are great examples of 20th-century technology, but they are going to get much better.

We have the technology, today, to make our power grid more sustainable, cleaner, more robust and more reliable just by replacing old-fashioned metering with “smart-metering”[1] and agreeing to pay enterprising power consumers for generating some of their own electricity.

Today, almost all our electricity is distributed from power plants through the “power grid” to users. The electricity only flows one way. The utility generates the power. The power flows through wires to homes and businesses. The homes and businesses use the power. The utility measures how much power is used, and charges the customer.

The new, smarter grid, allows every power customer to become a power generator as well as a power consumer. The consumer and the utility are “interconnected.” “Smart meters” measure the power flowing both directions and compensates the customers for their contribution to the power supply.

Where “net metering” is available, utilities measure the customer’s “net” usage. If you can generate some of your own electricity – with photovoltaics, wind or any other generator – the utility buys it from you and sells it to other customers nearby. When we distribute electricity across long distances, some of the power is lost in the process. About 6 percent of the power generated in the United States is lost to transmission inefficiencies.[2] If we empower individuals to produce their own power – and pay them for it – the electricity is distributed more efficiently because it doesn’t have to travel as far.

t brandt
12/13/2010 5:28:01 PM

??? Let me get this straight: you want me, here in NE Illinois, to produce my own electricity from wind or PV, at a cost of ~35cents/kw-hr, and sell it back to our power company, which will pay me ~12cents/kw-hr? I guess I gotta make up the difference on volume, right? Maybe we should just wait until the coal actually runs out.

8/3/2010 9:19:18 AM

I have solar panels and a net meter. Love it! Smart meters are becoming a tough sell here in central CA. They are using WIFI to send the data. I am not concerned as my meter is way out on the well house. If my meter were on the outside wall by the head of my bed as can be the case in many urban residences, I would not be in favor unless they could locate the antenna 33 feet from where I spend most of my time in my home. That is the permitted exposure distance that we had to have for the public when I did Cell Phone tower work. Need to consider all of the implications of the system. I'm wondering why they can't just run the info back over the power lines (although that might produce unacceptable levels of RF interference-don't know much about that technology.)

8/3/2010 2:53:11 AM

I am a member of both TURN and UCAN, watchdog agencies that try to 'watch over" the utilities and such - The "smart meters" sound great - but so far there have been reports of people's bills going through the roof, and of these meters catching fire up north. I read TURN was trying to get the installation of these meters blocked until they could be proven to be reliable, and accurate. Our condo's have been getting these smart meters - once mine is installed I will have to watch and see what happens to my bill. I have already warned SDG&E about what TURN has said about these meters.

roxanne peterson
8/2/2010 10:41:34 PM

"The real advantage of the smart grid is that it would produce thousands of small grids that would be less dependent on each other." Oh, I think I'm starting to understand the tension here. Of course the big utilities are going to fight this because it dismantles there influence and hence there ability to control prices. It's not just everyone hooked together and sending electricity back and forth to the main utility provider. It sounds like there could be much smaller more independent systems and networks that could work together cooperatively to meet their own needs for the most part, and set their own prices, etc. And in our society, the bigger the business the more influence they have over "our" representatives in Congress, so I can see how that would put the brakes on the momentum if the big utilities feel threatened. What am I missing in this "analysis"? What can we do to move forward? I know in MN, we seem to be in a state of major constipation over these issues. A lot of fingers in the pie, but not much pie eating going on here.

8/2/2010 9:51:15 PM

I agree,I think the biggest hold back for a lot of low income people is the the cost of course. I have wanted solar pannels for years but when you live one month at a time is becomes imposable to save any money. It only takes one emergency to wipe out any money you have saved for a solar system. It's just maddning. Rodney

karen / la
8/2/2010 8:51:07 PM

thank you for being on line. it is so way past time to live off the grid. but it is so expensive. I remember when I was under 20 yrs old and y'all had a cheap way to make solar panels. like cans painted black and a batttery. I would like to start with that and have free hot water. thanks for being here. now that i've found you I will telll everyone and be back. warning!! lol ha ha ha karen/la 52+yrs

scotts contracting_1
8/2/2010 3:39:55 PM

Well said! I'm glad others think as I do. I especially enjoyed the part about Individuals supplying the extra Electricity needed when the Utility Company has Problems. I also think the Governments reluctance to Renewable Energy is because they will have less control over the Population. Otherwise why haven't they led the Charge on Enabling Renewable Energy that will reduce the USA's need for Foreign Oil? Why are we giving our Money and Resources to Countries that are against the USA? When we give them $Money$ we also enable them in their Activities that are Anti-American. On my Green and Eco Friendly Web Site: I welcome all green and eco friendly comments. I also have Guest Post Opportunities for Sharing your Green and Eco Friendly Information. The Guest Post Opportunities are Free of Charge.

7/14/2010 5:12:46 PM

Great thought, Reboot. Very good points. Thanks! - Bryan

7/14/2010 12:19:25 PM

Bryan, very nice article, but I have to take issue with a few of your comments. I am a blogger for and I also live a couple miles from the edge of the power grid in the Cascade Mountains. I can’t help but wonder why one would want to generate their own power without a means of storing any of that power? Net metering, or any system that doesn’t store power, is creating a “use it or loose it” scenario. There is no security there. If the grid is down, the consumer is without power except for what they can generate and only at the moment of generation. It doesn’t help to have a few solar panels at 9 p.m. in the evening when they are not generating. The real advantage of the smart grid is that it would produce thousands of small grids that would be less dependent on each other. The power producers should be industrial complexes, not houses. Residential solar panels you must consider; roof pitch, landscaping (any trees casting shadows), direction the roof is facing, available square footage and more. Industrial complexes usually have flat roofs, sparse landscaping (with parking lots), and lots of square footage. Where all of us can help is to evaluate our own energy usage. Look at your last power bill and try to drop the Kwh used by 10%. Then another 10%, and so on. Buy energy saving appliances. Take some of the money you would save buy not buying that solar setup and by some CFL and LED lighting. Replace ALL your incandescent bulbs. Reboot2009

charles j_3
6/21/2010 10:43:01 PM

What's really dumb about them is they constantly keep getting knocked out with every storm. It's time we generate our own power with solar and wind. Next year when the house is paid off I'll be setting the example for my late starting suburban neighbors.

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