Obama Picks Projects to Smarten Up the Electricity Grid

By Eliza Strickland | October 27, 2009 10:32 am

electricity-gridThe creaky old electrical grid that carries power around the United States is inefficient, outmoded, and perilously prone to failures. To make a start at remedying the situation, President Obama will announce today the 100 utility projects that will share $3.4 billion in federal stimulus funding to speed deployment of advanced technology designed to cut energy use and make the electric-power grid more robust. When combined with funds from utility customers, the program is expected to inject more than $8 billion into grid modernization efforts nationally, administration officials said. “We have a very antiquated system that we need to upgrade,” said Carol Browner, energy coordinator for the Obama administration [The Wall Street Journal].

The projects include the installation of “smart meters,” which are more advanced than typical electricity meters. They use digital technology to deliver detailed usage data both to the customer and the utility, as well as adding displays in homes that tell customers about their electricity use [The New York Times]. This allows for real-time monitoring of electricity use so that customers can adjust their usage, for example by turning off devices during peak hours when electricity is most expensive.

Federal stimulus money will also go to projects that improve the efficiency of power lines and electric substations, and for next-generation transformers that can wirelessly communicate their condition, so that power plant operators get a warning before a part fails. Other projects will set the stage for the smooth introduction of large amounts of electricity from wind or solar sources into the transmission system [AP].

Related Content:
80beats: Google’s PowerMeter Bets That Knowledge Is Less Power (Consumption)
80beats: Google and GE Team Up to Save the U.S. Power Grid
DISCOVER: Building an Interstate Highway System for Energy

Image: flickr / srqpix

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • http://NotionsCapital.com Mike Licht

    What’s the biggest threat to America’s power grid?

    See:

    http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/terrorists-strike-u-s-infrastructure/

  • katesisco

    Buy an electric car, the government says such demand requires more power, new power plants are built (same-0ld, same-old) by passing new regs as needed immediately due to power demand by the electric cars. Note that there is no plan to build a new cross-nation freight line to replace the LA to NY long-haul trucking which use diesel.

    Another Texas Two-Step sideways instead of forward. And if a CME does smack Earth, guess what will fry? Hint: the diesels will not be affected.

  • Funky chicken

    Kate’s right. The Texas two step is no way to deal with our nations energy needs. Any fool should see that the electric glide is more appropriate. Heck, even the Lindy hop will accomplish more than the same ole two step.

  • Electrified

    Most people in the state that I reside pay a flat rate per kilowat hour used. So taking steps to reduce usage during peak hours will not effect their electricity bill.
    If you watch your electric bill every month and/or check your usage online as most electric utilities offer, then you can easily predict when you are using the most electricity. If you want to monitor you electric usage to lower the consumption, then this method is just as efficient as installing these expensive devices into your homes.
    IMHO, this project is a big waste of the tax payer’s dollars. The money would be put to better use towards a better electricity monitoring team to make outages fewer and less time to get power back up and running.

  • fred edison

    The infrastructure of the current electrical grid is akin to a highway that carries more and more traffic but isn’t updated to support and manage the increased traffic. These updates have to be accomplished to meet our growing electrical energy demands. It’s not as if they are doing it just to frivolously waste money.

    Smart meters report power outages automatically, and provide real time feedback to the utility companies with more relevant data, which allows them to more finely tune their electrical output production, and thereby reduce unnecessary power generation, which in turn lowers CO2 emissions into the atmosphere because less coal has to be burned. Sounds good to me.

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