smart grid illustrationThe Smart Grid. It sounds like some overly designed set for a sci-fi movie set 50 years in the future, doesn’t it? Well, it’s something that the Department of Energy is actively working on, and it affects each of us. To begin, have a look at this interactive infographic of a smart grid and we'll get going from there.

There is already an electrical grid that crisscrosses this country, supplying energy to towns all over the U.S. It’s referred to as “the grid,” and it’s been in place for decades. The Department of Energy has been tasked with upgrading this old system with a new “smart” system while the old grid is still in place and still running. This makes the process fairly slow, as is the case with most nationwide upgrades to critical systems. (Remember the analog to digital TV changeover?)

Why are we replacing the old grid? It’s quite simple, really: We’ve nearly reached the limits of the old grid, and we need a new, smartgrid that will help us use our energy more responsibly.

Did you know that in many areas of the United States, the only way a utility provider knows that there’s an outage is when a customer calls to report it? It’s staggering to think that, in this day and age, one of the technologies we are most reliant on is so out of touch with current technology. That’s energy on the old grid.

The new, smart grid aims to take centralized power grids and make them a thing of the past, making them more consumer-driven. The Smart Grid will be a two-way street of energy and information that works similarly to the Internet (an internet for energy!). Individual buildings, homes and even appliances relay usage information back to local power stations. Then, the stations process the information coming in and adjust output to each location accordingly.

This automatic feedback will help homes save energy without having to think about it. The Smart Grid does the thinking for you. The potential for the new system is substantial and can help with advanced metering, analyzing your businesses’ energy consumption and, in the future, help increase the popularity of plug-in hybrid electricvehicles.

To learn more about what the Smart Grid is and isn’t, plus useful information about planned projects, you can read the helpful PDF produced by the Department of Energy. It explains the highly technical Smart Grid in terms that make sense to almost anyone.

Also, be sure and stay tuned for an upcoming contest sponsored by our team at Burns & McDonnell, directly related to Smart Grid technology. You won’t be disappointed!