The Smart Grid

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

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.

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