Monday, November 22, 2010

The "Energy Internet": The Next Big Boom

Underlying all my ranting about alternative energy and energy efficiency is the 'Smart Grid.'

Luckily, this was Dayaway Career's Energy IQ term for today, which saves me the trouble of writing up my own definition and instead just stealing theirs!
Smart Grid - is a form of electricity network utilizing digital technology. A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using two-way digital communications to control appliances at consumers' homes; this saves energy, reduces costs and increases reliability and transparency. It overlays the ordinary electrical grid with an information and net metering system, that includes smart meters.
I would feel bad for blatantly taking their material, but they got their definition from Wikipedia.  For all we know the Wikipedia definition was written by a 5 year old, and my moral compass tells me that stealing from children is permissible.

Social ambiguities aside, the development of a national smart grid is not only necessary, it is just a matter of time.  In order for any of the other developments in the sustainable marketplace to really make an impact, they are going to have to work together:
  • Electric cars communicating with wind turbine's to determine when it is cheapest to charge their batteries
  • Excess energy produced from a home's solar panels being sold back into the energy market
  • Appliances turning on and off in accordance to aggregated energy usage
  • Avoiding and preventing power outages that cause million's of dollars being lost
These are just a few examples of how a smart grid will benefit America (emphasis on the few).  Make no mistake, a national smart grid will cost a mind-numbingly huge number.  However, if America is going to even think about staying competitive with other countries (all of which are also pursuing the digital smart grid), then we will need to invest.

Like other huge infrastructure projects, such as the internet or the highway system before it, a smart grid will definitely offset the initial cost of development with untold benefits down the road.  This is why you are seeing around $350 billion spent on these projects annually.

So 5 years from now when you are charging your electric car, managing your appliances from some website, and making money from your solar panels, remember that Colin Brownell guy wasn't just making things up back in 2010.


  1. Children don't have adequate legal representation, so it is fine to take from them.

    I believe in addition to what you have said here, the real question is whether the government will fund the redevelopment of the energy grid or if businesses will be responsible.

  2. Good point.

    I don't know enough about how you would go about funding a project of this size. However, I do know that it is imperative for America to invest in a better electrical distribution system, I think that the government should lead the charge (as they already have been doing) in this arena.

    Whether it is through tax credits and incentive programs to companies spear-heading R&D, or if it is just a case of busting out the check book; these programs will depend greatly on the government's involvement.

    Any political party will see that it is in the nation's best interest to invest in these systems, so hopefully the process moves along quickly.

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