Although electrification undoubtedly was the most significant engineering achievement of the 20th century, the U.S. electric power
infrastructure – the grid – is quickly running up against its limitation. Bigger TVs, bigger houses, more air conditioners and more computers
coupled with population growth have since 1982 increased our demand for electricity so much that it, according to the U.S. Department of
Energy, exceeds transmission growth by almost 25% per year.
This is bad news, especially as spending on research and development within the electric industry – the first step towards innovation and renewal – is among the
lowest of all U.S. industries. In fact, since 2000 only 688 additional miles of interstate transmission has been built, and America’s century-old grid consists today of around 300,000 miles of transmission lines and 9,200 electric generating units with 1,000,000 megawatts of generating capacity. It is estimated that system constraints and power quality issues cost American business more than $100 billion each year.
But change is on the way. The smart-grid, a decentralized and more consumer interactive network, characterized by a two-way flow of electricity and information will be capable of monitoring everything from power plants to consumer preferences and individual appliances. In short, this information and communication technology (ICT) based energy delivery network enables a near-instantaneous balance of energy supply and demand.
This is something the electric industry so far has been unable of doing. The reason is that electricity must be consumed the moment it is generated, and when there
is no way of exactly establish how much demand exists at a given time it is tricky to determine how much supply is the right supply.
The smart-grid thus minimizes the need for traditional, expensive peak capacity. The grid’s intelligent design makes it capable of fast sensing system overloads and rerouting power and it is able of meeting consumer demand without adding infrastructure. That is good news for consumers. Currently between 33% – 50% on our electric bill is assigned to maintenance of the electric infrastructure.
And the smart-grid will not only make possible for the consumer to tailor their energy consumption based on individual preferences, such as price or environmental concerns, the grid also accepts energy from virtually any fuel source including solar and wind.
Copyright 2016, Caroline Calais. All rights are reserved