New smart grid technologies associated with various elements of the nation’s power grid are producing copious amounts of electricity usage data already via new types of hardware such as smart meters and real-time power monitoring systems that have been implemented by utility companies such as APS and SRP in Arizona. The DOE funding is focused on simplifying these monitoring tools even more. Ultimately, a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s power grid; for example a smart grid, is necessary in order to accommodate an increased incorporation of renewable energy sources due to instabilities in power transmission that are created. What’s more, approximately 30 percent of electricity is lost from the initial power source such as a fossil fuel power plant to the end user along transmission and distribution lines; so it is even more vital to use it efficiently once it arrives.
Companies such as KEMA, focused on independent energy consulting, testing, and certification, are helping pave the way for the smart grid superhighway. Recently, this company opened a Smart Grid Interoperability Lab in Kentucky, focused on dynamic power utilization testing. It will be used to simulate real-world conditions and test end-to-end functionality of smart-grid components including in-home displays, electric vehicle charging, smart meters, and customer information software systems.
The lab will provide independent testing of specific designs within a suite of setups and enable flexibility within common smart-grid programs and configurations. Primarily, KEMA’s goal in this effort is to ensure compliance and testing in the lab in accordance with government and industry standards. Moreover, this testing will also provide critical measurement of cyber security performance within smart grid networks to prevent viruses and hackers or terrorists from crashing local or regional power distribution networks.
REC Solar, a provider of home, commercial and government solar electric systems, has teamed with GE Energy Industrial Solutions to offer a greener energy solution for the incorporation of electric vehicle charging stations on the nation’s power grid. These companies are collaborating to distribute the GE WattStation electric vehicle charger. Solar-powered charging stations reduce the net carbon footprint of electric hybrid vehicles even more, while offering energy and cost-savings benefits. This end-to-end solar electric vehicle charging system by REC Solar and GE will enable cars to essentially run on sunshine and will facilitate the US in its pursuit of reducing its reliance on foreign oil, which is on the rise again.
Many related topics to this article were discussed at the monthly guest lecture last week for the Phoenix Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)- Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Society.
Last week, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced an $8 million smart grid funding initiative that will be offered in grants for utilities, local governments, and communities to develop programs that enable consumers to utilize their electricity more efficiently by enhanced access to power consumption data, leading to reduced energy costs. This Department of Energy (DOE) initiative is entitled the “Smart Grid Data Access” Funding Opportunity Announcement, which is focused on partnering local communities with utilities and technology innovators to implement programs on the transparency of electricity usage. Details on the power grid program can be found at this reference site.
In general, the DOE has been a major advocate of smart grid technology, and President Obama included billions in Recovery Act funding for this effort.