Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What is new about a "Smart Power Grid"

What is all this talk about a "Smart Grid" for electric energy supply? There seems to be a lot of hype about how this will greatly increase energy supply or efficiency. From what I've read, the "Smart Grid" seems to be more of a PR term than a radical change. In fact, I don't see anything radical or new about it. From the Washington Post (March 10, 2009; Page A01):
"One gizmo allows you to run the dishwasher when electricity is cheapest. Another decides when to fire up the water heater if you plan on a 6 a.m. shower. "
I remember technology to do run high energy appliances in the off-peak hours in the 1980s. A utility in NW Minnesota had a system in the 80's that would allow them to switch customers between electric heat had automated wood burning furnaces.
"Another routes solar energy from a rooftop panel to a battery in your garage and the wiring in your house. ..."
Any solar energy system that includes batteries does this now.
"The power grid itself can react to trouble, rerouting juice from a healthy part of the system or isolating itself to prevent a larger meltdown..."
Power grids already do this.

What the "Smart Grid" seems to be is more of an on-going improvement of existing system rather than a radical change of technology. I wonder how much of this is an attempt by the electric utility industry to get federal money to do the ongoing maintenance and improvement that they should have been doing all along.

Maybe all we can expect from most major media now is just repeating industry press releases. Many of the reporters who had specialized in energy and the environment have been laid-off or reassigned. General assignment reporters just don't have any knowledge of the history of the issues.

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