Smart Grid Technology has been gaining steam in the public eye lately, though many are unsure of what a smart grid really is. To understand what a smart grid is, think along the lines of an efficient system of metering, transporting, and controlling the electrical needs of an entire country and continent. A smart grid is a backbone of energy generation and distribution that is highly efficient and maximizes efficiency while providing inexpensive renewable energy. Programmable thermostats, wireless electric meters, self healing and routing transmission equipment, and advanced energy storage methods for responding to peak usage are all different parts of the smart grid model.
With more and more renewable energy projects being planned, the electrical transmission backbone of the United States is showing its age and losing efficiency. Lost efficiency causes us to use more resources and increases electrical rates for everyone. Even a small increase of 5% in efficiency could reduce emissions in the United States, equal to 20+ million cars and 250 billion pounds of CO2. A healthier environment and atmosphere are just a couple of the things that 21st century smart grid technology can provide. Pooled along renewable energy projects such as wind and solar installations, we can begin to develop a more efficient and reliable method of energy transportation.
Google.org is working to make viewing your home and business electrical usage an easy process. The idea is that Google’s PowerMeter will be able to show the user near real-time energy usage, and help the user reduce that usage during peak times. This will help to bring the smart grid into millions of homes across the United States and further bring out energy infrastructure into the 21st century.
In order to move forward with a reliable smart grid, energy storage will need to be revamped and designed to handle inconsistent forms of renewable energy such as wind and solar. High capacity fuel cells and technologies such as Compressed Air Energy Storage are showing promise in delivering energy when it is needed most at peak usage periods.
Smart Grid Technology has the possibility for the United States to put into practice all of the ideas and technologies that are being developed to increase energy efficiency and help keep the environment healthy. As new technologies emerge, a fully function smart grid would be able to incorporate these advances into the functioning power system while maintaining a high level of efficiency and reliability.