The Smarter Electric Grid Of The Future

Apr 12, 2010 By Phillip F. Schewe, ISNS
THE SMART GRID OF THE FUTURE. 1. Information flows over power lines. 2. 20% of electricity from renewable sources. 3. Appliances run when the grid is quieter. 4. Internal energy meters calculate use in real-time. 5.Cars rely on grid rather than internal combustion. Credit: Martha Heil, ISNS

The smart grid idea aims to save money, reduce pollution, lower costs, and create new "green" jobs. Smart grid is a phrase that refers to a number of things at the same time. It refers to the modernization of the electrical grid itself -- the way electricity is transmitted over long distances and then brought to customers. It refers to things in the home, such as appliances that turn themselves off and on at certain hours in order to save energy. And it can refer to the effect electricity will have on other parts of the economy, such as transportation.

George W. Arnold, who works at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., has the job of coordinating government programs with private efforts to ensure that new technology coming into being will be compatible with existing grid equipment and with the technology of tomorrow.

Arnold spoke this week about the smart grid in the year 2020 at a meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery in Washington. His talk was a sort of "State of the Union" for electricity in the U.S., as it will be ten years from now.

Here is a sampling of what home electricity might look like in the year 2020. Roof shingles made of light-sensitive materials make electricity to help power the home. Twenty percent or even more of electricity sent by the local utility will be from , such as wind or . Many homes will be equipped with "net metering," which means that if you generate more electricity than you can use (from , say), it can be sent out and added to the general grid.

One of the main goals of an automated smart grid for the home is for appliances to know when to operate. For example, with a single small a dishwasher will start up in the middle of the night, when the cost of electricity is much lower than in the late afternoon.

The advent of will allow utilities to charge different rates for electricity during different times of the day. Because of this, customers will learn to be thriftier with their energy use. At least that's what energy analysts hope.

Many homes send and receive Internet signals over a phone line or a dedicated cable. The smart grid of tomorrow may carry such information over lines now dedicated to power alone.

"Enernet is our name for a system that combines energy and information," Arnold said.

A greener grid is expected to be a major new component of the economy. Arnold cited a recent study which showed that about 270,000 new jobs relating to the smart grid would be generated over the next few years, and that another 170,000 jobs would materialize in the five years after that.

The government will spend more than $3 billion over the next year or two in helping to promote the smart grid. But is this enough? Massoud Amin, a professor at the University of Minnesota and who helped to promote the idea of smart grid more than a decade ago, says that $10 billion per year is probably a better estimate of what is needed.

Another big element of the smart grid is the effort to electrify cars. Car companies are about to introduce plug-in hybrid vehicles, cars which can go up to about 30 - 40 miles with an electric motor, but which can also rely on a gasoline engine. Electric power is much more efficient than gasoline-driven propulsion. That's the incentive for making more cars at least partially electric.

Arnold said that converting two-thirds of the auto fleet to at least plug-in hybrid status would cut oil imports to the U.S. by half and would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent. To do this, however, will require upgrades in several parts of the electrical equipment that deliver electricity to homes. Car recharging, like dishwashing, is best done in the middle of the night, when many electrical generators are otherwise idle. But the power needed for the charging can be as great as that needed for the house as a whole. Therefore new wiring might be needed.

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Provided by Inside Science News Service

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User comments : 14

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antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Apr 12, 2010
Yeah...and you know what your neighbors will say when you start your dishwasher/washing machine in the middle of the night.

And the number of people who are willing to shell out big bucks for new wiring in the home are also rather limited (espcially inteh cities I don't see that happening. When you are not assured of a parking space close to your hoe then what's the point of putting in a plug-in point for your electric car?)
brainiac125
not rated yet Apr 12, 2010
I always dreamed about being able to monitor the power usage of every appliance in my house from my computer and control them to turn on (or off) later in the night. I mean, who really needs 7-8 digital clocks turned on in a house 24/7? And the idea of sharing locally generated, renewable electricity with a neighbor when it's unneeded is amazing. Applied widespread, imagine the load that would take off of the grid, imagine the drop in the cost of electric bills. I really hope the claims made in this article unfold within the decade. Given that updating the power grid would also enable feasible widespread adoption of hybrids, the US could use the creation of a smart grid as the means of seriously jump-starting a century of green technology.
christian_physicist
5 / 5 (1) Apr 12, 2010
Obviously a lot of potential for good and evil here. Anything that gives control of when an electrical appliance operates to someone other than the owner has an obvious potential for abuse. Hopefully there will always be local overrides, but the Californian proposal (now withdrawn) to let government officials control home thermostats doesn't exactly give me confidence.
DaveMart
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 12, 2010
At some time the media is going to realize that 'renewables' are hugely expensive and ineffective in reducing CO2 emissions, as the natural gas which is in practice burnt to make up most of the time when the sun or wind is not available is not used efficiently as it would be if used without their 'help'.
If you want to go low carbon, and don't want to pay Danish rates of around $0.38 kwh for electricity, go nuclear.
It really is that simple.
fixer
5 / 5 (1) Apr 12, 2010
New tech in the form of printable plastic solar cells means it is possible to roof your house and provide all your energy needs and export excess power to the grid.
Some boffin will marry the cells into standard panels 4'X 8' with interlocking edges and waterproof connections that will fasten directly to the battens.
stealthc
1 / 5 (1) Apr 12, 2010
Well you don't have to do anything your electrical system is fine, and if you live in the us, half the modification is already in place.

It is called a smart meter and it can detect devices based on how they use power. Newer devices can include a microchip that communicates with smart meters to allow the power company to determine when you should get power or not, and for what.

This is technology straight out of orwell's 1984
Yeah...and you know what your neighbors will say when you start your dishwasher/washing machine in the middle of the night.

And the number of people who are willing to shell out big bucks for new wiring in the home are also rather limited (espcially inteh cities I don't see that happening. When you are not assured of a parking space close to your hoe then what's the point of putting in a plug-in point for your electric car?)

konst
3.5 / 5 (2) Apr 12, 2010
The "smart grid" is the governments way of screwing up your life. Where now your electric supply and appliances are safe from hackers, the smart grid will create that problem.

Suppose your neighbors vote that you are not allowed to do laundry after 10 pm cause of noise rules. The smart grid will enable all kinds of draconian laws to be created. Then politicians will make new laws on top of laws on top of laws to protect you from the smart grid problems that they enabled in the first place.
zevkirsh
2 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2010
when will congress figure out how to purge the utilities , coal , nuclear, and hydro industries to team up against big oil? it's electricity vs. oil. that's the bottom line. electricity = innovation, progress and tech bubble, oil = less american economic dominance and more asian/indian dominance in emerging technology markets. simple choice. jobs or no jobs.
random
5 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2010
The "smart grid" is the governments way of screwing up your life. Where now your electric supply and appliances are safe from hackers, the smart grid will create that problem.


Where in the past our data was safe from hackers, the internet has now created that problem...

This logic cannot be justified. The threat of the big bad hacker doesn't obviate the improvement of our infrastructure. They do present a threat, but countermeasures are being taken, such as the new US focus on improving cyber security.
konst
2 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2010
Where in the past our data was safe from hackers, the internet has now created that problem...

This logic cannot be justified. The threat of the big bad hacker doesn't obviate the improvement of our infrastructure. They do present a threat, but countermeasures are being taken, such as the new US focus on improving cyber security.

Having computer problems doesn't now cause your food to spoil or shut down your electricity. New laws infringing civil rights will be enacted in the name of protecting you from the problem created by putting your electric appliances and supply on the grid for the utility companies' benefits.
EdFreeman
not rated yet Apr 13, 2010
$10b a year is a joke for the federal gov'n especially when we desperately need to add jobs. This sounds like a great investment. I don't think anyone is proposing that the grid CONTROL when your appliances turn on. It can INFORM them when rates are cheaper so they can start at an appropriate time if you choose to code the device this way. Exponentially higher daytime rates should move us in the right direction. This may even reduce the vampire devices. With respect to city charging - as far as I know every street has power for the lights and we could add a pole for secure charging at each parking spot. It's not like we're not used to having our streets dug up. In general, higher charges for a limited resource (here daytime power) makes for smarter usage. The sooner the better.
random
not rated yet Apr 17, 2010
Having computer problems doesn't now cause your food to spoil or shut down your electricity. New laws infringing civil rights will be enacted in the name of protecting you from the problem created by putting your electric appliances and supply on the grid for the utility companies' benefits.


What good is civil liberty in a world with poorly managed and rapidly dwindling resources? Think of it this way: you're getting new liberties, namely sustainable consumption, to replace the old, inefficient ones that do little besides restrict societal development. I'm sure that in hindsight implementing this system will seem as obvious as the invention of indoor plumbing.
TJ_alberta
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
BPL was recently dumped for a wide range of technical and economic reasons. Now it sounds like the the power (energy) companies are trying to revive it in the guise of a different name. When they tried buy off the FCC to promote BPL were shouted down by the public and reprimanded by the courts -- now it looks like they are now trying to lobby National Institute of Standards and Technology.
goldengod
not rated yet May 17, 2010
The good thing about running out of oil is that we have less of it to burn so carbon emissions are decreasing as a result.

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