Smart Grid

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Smart Grid

 

 What is the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project?

 

It's one of 16 Smart Grid related projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.   Idaho Falls Power is one of eleven participants taking part in the Pacific Northwest project, which is the largest of the regional programs.  Project participants represent a range of public and private companies and are expected to fund half of the $178 million cost. 

 

The project is aimed at establishing a more effective and efficient electricity infrastructure to help contain costs, cut emissions, boost the reliability of the power grid, provide more flexibility for consumers and incorporate more renewable energy resources such as wind and solar.

 

The five year project is expected to not only advance smart grid technology, but also create more than 1,500 jobs tied to manufacturing, installing and operating the equipment, and help spur a more cost-effective and reliable electric supply system.

 

The nation's electric grid dates to the late 19th century and is considered one of the most impressive engineering feats in history. The grid consists of more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines, approximately 9,200 electric generating units and over a million megawatts of generating capacity. It's an engineering marvel.

 

Upon closer inspection, though, the nation's electric grid is a patchwork of independently owned and run power plants and transmission lines held together by aging equipment that's being stretched to capacity by a massive surge in demand for electricity - a 400-percent increase in the last half-century. To meet this immense uptick in demand, the energy industry needs a grid that can handle that need along with the increasingly complex nature of providing electricity in the 21st century.

 

The regional Smart Grid project offers an unprecedented chance to upgrade the grid to one that's more reliable, efficient and capable of containing costs, reducing emissions and incorporating renewable energy.

 

With its ability to communicate wirelessly, the new grid will be better prepared for emergencies such as blizzards and earthquakes. It will be capable of self-healing, or rerouting power when equipment fails or outages strike, lessening the chance for outages and shortening those that occur.

 

That's not the only way in which the new grid will impact consumers. In-home displays and web portals will make for more informed energy users, something that's proven to lead to lower electric bills; and the technology will provide consumers with an array of options for managing their energy use. They'll even eventually be able to adjust their home thermostat from their smart phone before leaving work.

 

As we move to utilize available advanced technologies, it is critical that we incorporate them into the grid we need. This is why the Smart Grid project is so important.  It's a chance to test and improve the technologies, educate consumers on the new equipment and develop new processes and regulations.

 

The project also gives Idaho Falls Power and its customers a say in the development of the nation's electric grid. Project volunteers will not only receive free equipment to help make them wiser energy consumers, they'll also play a role in establishing a more reliable, secure and efficient grid - a smart grid.

 

Click here to link to the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project website.

 

Click here to view a "Myth Busters" video on advanced meters by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.

 

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