The Smart Garage: Crossroads of the New Green Economy

Pretty soon, you're going to be hearing a lot more about "the smart garage." It's a concept at the nexus of the three major sectors of the new green economy: transportation, electric power, and buildings.

"This is where your car, the house, and the electricity system meet," Michael Brylawski, cofounder and leader of the Rocky Mountain institute's Mobility + Vehicle efficiency (MOVE) Team, said on a conference call  this week, reporting on a meeting earlier this month that had carmakers like Nissan and GM, utilities such as PG&E and Duke Energy, and companies like IBM, P&G, Walmart and Google, among many others, convening to discuss the coming new energy paradigm.

So what's the smart garage all about? 

In the future, your electric-hybrid car will plug into stations at homes, offices, or parking garages for overnight recharging. With updated information and automated controls moving along the existing power lines—a "smart grid"—these car batteries can also be made to collectively serve as backup power storage for the grid. This, in turn, will help smooth out the naturally fluctuating supply of renewable solar and wind energy, which has until now been a major barrier to adoption, while improving efficiency. 

The first adoptions are likely to come from fleet owners, including city governments and businesses like UPS. (Seattle is one city to conduct a smart garage pilot, with home-grown smart garage startup V2Green).  It sounds futuristic, but it's largely a matter of better coordinating and radically expanding existing technologies. 

The most inspiring voice on the call came from Dave Bieselin, a director of engineering for unified communicatins at Cisco, who compared the leaps and bounds we've seen in telecom over the last 10 years to what's possible by creating new networks with smart garage technologies.

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