A Smart Grid That Lets Us Better Control Our Energy Use May Finally Be Ready to Launch
By Mike Martin for E Magazine
Our current electric power grid hasn’t changed in the last 100 years. It’s designed to move electricity in one direction—from mostly fossil-fueled generation plants to user—and makes only limited use of automation and information technology. And it can’t collect power consumption information in real time. The smart grid would change that dynamic with a two-way flow of both electricity and information. It would also open the door for renewable energy sources like wind and solar to get connected and start to reduce the national dependence on dirty fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Many homes already feature solar panels and even wind turbines that could actually add electricity to the grid. But the current system of transmission lines isn’t able to determine how much renewable energy will be available at a given time—after all, solar power and wind power are both subject to fluctuation—so utilities produce the same amount of electricity regardless. And, in general, they have to overcompensate. In order to match electricity supply with demand, utilities decide on a level of demand that would be excessive and then match it.
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