The Smart Grid: The Future of Power in the United States Whitepaper
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the nation’s current electric grid is the largest interconnected machine in the world, consisting of over 9,200 electric generating units with over 1,000,000 megawatts of generating capacity, connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines. Growing demand on the grid is stretching it to its limits, and there is no end in sight. The DOE estimates that nationwide demand for electricity is expected to grow 30 percent by 2030, and electricity prices are forecast to increase 50 percent over the next seven years.
Left alone as it is, the grid is simply incapable of sustaining this level of demand. However, the costs associated with “building out” the grid in traditional ways are simply prohibitive.
A solution? Enter the “smart grid.” DOE defines smart grid as: “the electricity delivery network from electrical generation to end-use customers, integrated with the latest advances in digital and information technology to improve electric system reliability, security and efficiency.”
The smart grid is designed to provide a two-way flow of electricity and information, and will be capable of monitoring everything from power plants to individual customer preferences for home appliances. It incorporates the benefits of distributed computing and communications to deliver real-time information and to enable the near-instantaneous balance of supply and demand at the device level. The technology interacts with the grid in a “soup to nuts” fashion, including electricity transmission, electricity storage, wide-area situational awareness, demand-response, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distribution and overall grid management.
Smart Grid Network