Google and GE Team Up to Save the U.S. Power Grid

By Eliza Strickland | September 19, 2008 6:47 pm

electric power linesGoogle and General Electric have announced a partnership aimed at upgrading the United States electric power grid and pushing forward the development of renewable energy. The companies plan to conduct a joint lobbying effort in Washington to encourage the government to invest in developing a “smart grid,” and will also work together on projects like geothermal energy systems and integrating plug-in electric cars into the grid. The deal combines each company’s strengths: GE will make the hardware — from wind turbines to metering switches, and Google will make the software — applying network technologies to the grid [Portfolio].

The announcement follows a speech given two weeks ago by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in which he laid out a blueprint for how the United States could switch over to generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030, while also eliminating half of the gasoline-powered cars from the roads. While Google hasn’t offered to follow through on that comprehensive proposal, which carried the hefty price tag of $2.7 billion, the partnership with GE seems to indicate that Google wants to put many of its suggestions into practice.

In Schmidt’s speech two weeks ago, he singled out the problems posed by the nation’s aging and inefficient electricity grid. There’s a 9 percent efficiency loss in the current grid infrastructure, which could be offset with smart technology systems, he said. For example, a plug-in vehicle’s batteries could be charged at night and then send surplus energy back into the system during the day, shifting power back to the grid at peak energy-usage times, he said. “I could imagine a smart garage where I would plug in my car and the computer handles it” [CNET].

In GE and Google’s new partnership, the companies plan to lobby the government to develop a smart grid (with advanced computing and communication systems to distribute power more efficiently), and also to ensure that renewable energy power facilities are connected to the grid. Wind, solar, geothermal or water energy is often only worth generating in remote areas which don’t have any big power lines to carry the juice to the consumers. But the added cost of building the lines is frequently such that the project couldn’t pay for itself, even given existing renewables incentives. Hence the push for government money [The Register].

A truly smart grid could have some surprising elements, as revealed in the DISCOVER article “The Latest Weapon Against Global Warming: Your Fridge.

Image: flickr/vaxomatic

  • Mepix Bellcamp

    Well, I must say, corporations are really slow on the uptake. The last major overhaul on any ANY infrastructure in this country was made between 1930 (The New Deal) and the days immediately after WWII.

    Myself, and a select group of individuals have been debating about and researching the issue of the national infrastructure. We reached the conclusion that the first baby steps towards the future would be an upgrade of the power grid. From there, progress could be made to upgrading America’s transportation network. The process would require all manor of jobs (from engineers, designers, architects, to basic laborers) and stimulate the economy. Our nation will finally move into the future

    So folks, what is the new deal here, and what is actually going to happen?

    What is the next step?

  • Lou

    what that is really going to mean is more death to rural america and small town america.

    what this really means is that the small to medium sized towns like say Buffalo,NY that have cheap hydro will now have to pay NYC, Boston and Philly prices for electricity as their renewable power is shipped off to the highest profit areas.

    the entire state of Georgia will pay the same price as Atlanta.

    The entire state of Texas will pay the same price as Houston and Dallas.

    The entire states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana will pay the same prices as Chicago.

    Get the picture….sounds good until you reallize what it really means….more centralization of pricing to the most expensive markets.

  • Lou

    First focus on simple things like energy star, cafe, led lights, heat pumps for hvac and insulation.

    Second focus on renewable generation

    Third move superconductor wiring, motors and generators further down the productization curve.

    Lastly, consider fault tolerant energy management and distribution technology.

  • PTownGrad

    Regardless of initial price shocks, I think we can all agree that these plans will make the US better in the long run. The US power grid right now makes it impossible for us to build renewable power plants like solar in the south or wind turbines in the Midwest. The power produced by these plants cannot be sent across the country without significant energy loss on today’s grid. Additionally, I would like to point out that this plan is consistent with the one that has been laid out by Obama, with his planned 150 billion dollar pledge to repair the power grid.

  • magesh

    i want to know the difference between grid and cloud computing.
    grid computing is better than cloud computiong or not.

  • magesh

    grid computing is better than cloud computiong or not.

  • Houston generator

    From time to time power outages do happen. They may last for hours, days, and in extreme cases—sometimes even months. So you have a choice: you could either sit there and cross your fingers in the dark, hoping that the electricity comes back on quick. Or you can be prepared with a powerful generator that will automatically switch on and immediately restore power to your home or business.


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