Fast Company

What is the Smart Grid, Anyway?

 Grid

Lately, we've been seeing President Obama name-checking the idea of a "smart grid." But what is it? Is it an actual grid or power lines? Or something more futuristic? A brilliant new website from GE is worth a look if you're hazy.

Designed by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in SF, the site explains the rationale for a smart grid, as well as its components. It lays everything out alongside elegant, interactive graphs. Granted, you have to recognize that GE isn't exactly a disinterested source in the matter, but they've done a great service by communicating an amorphous concept in such a well-designed format. Check it out.

(If you're impatient: The Smart Grid is a sprawling concept that entails a lot of technology. Major components would make our country's power network better at communicating system demand and supply, and better able to transport renewable energy from the hinterlands where it'll be created to the cities where it will be used.)

[Via Today & Tomorrow]

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8 Comments

  • Cliff Kuang

    Hey Ken and Sherry---Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading. Ken, you make a good point: In the future, our energy production will almost certainly be more decentralized and local than it is now. But the type of microgrid might not be totally realizable for the entire country. New York (and other large cities on the coasts) are a good example: There aren't enough nearby sustainable resources such as wind to power the entire city. So some version of a national grid will be required. Moreover, creating an "internet" grid has its own problem: How do you incentivize people to detach from the national grid? This seems like a natural role for the government, but I can guarantee that the major service providers would fight those developments with all their lobbying might.

  • Ken Smith

    Focusing on the Smart Grid can have detrimental impact on our acceleration towards energy independence. Think about the development of the computer/Internet industry. The Smart Grid mainly benefits a 'government computing' model of energy generation and distribution and one that heavily favored major industry incumbents (which is why you see so much sponsored press supporting what on the face a great idea)

    But dig deeper and you will see the limitations of focusing on a Smart Grid. Because the grid is over taxed, because it is 10+ years from being 'smart', because off-shore wind and other major sources of renewable energy are also 10+ years away, we need to accelerate our thinking from that 'government computing' model (where only a select few could access and control systems) to an 'energy internet' model where homeowners, municipalities, commercial buildings, and even some small (under 20MW) utility-scale generating facilities generate power to serve loads within 10-20 miles of generation. Only by promoting the energy Internet and the technologies that can be cost-effectively and quickly deployed to get us there will we reach energy independence in a short period of time.

    To learn more about the Smart Grid, and the Energy Internet/distributed generation, please go to: http://www.buildbabybuild.net/...

  • Ken Smith

    Focusing on the Smart Grid can have detrimental impact on our acceleration towards energy independence. Think about the development of the computer/Internet industry. The Smart Grid mainly benefits a 'government computing' model of energy generation and distribution and one that heavily favored major industry incumbents (which is why you see so much sponsored press supporting what on the face a great idea)

    But dig deeper and you will see the limitations of focusing on a Smart Grid. Because the grid is over taxed, because it is 10+ years from being 'smart', because off-shore wind and other major sources of renewable energy are also 10+ years away, we need to accelerate our thinking from that 'government computing' model (where only a select few could access and control systems) to an 'energy internet' model where homeowners, municipalities, commercial buildings, and even some small (under 20MW) utility-scale generating facilities generate power to serve loads within 10-20 miles of generation. Only by promoting the energy Internet and the technologies that can be cost-effectively and quickly deployed to get us there will we reach energy independence in a short period of time.

    To learn more about the Smart Grid, and the Energy Internet/distributed generation, please go to: http://www.buildbabybuild.net/...

  • Ken Smith

    Focusing on the Smart Grid can have detrimental impact on our acceleration towards energy independence. Think about the development of the computer/Internet industry. The Smart Grid mainly benefits a 'government computing' model of energy generation and distribution and one that heavily favored major industry incumbents (which is why you see so much sponsored press supporting what on the face a great idea)

    But dig deeper and you will see the limitations of focusing on a Smart Grid. Because the grid is over taxed, because it is 10+ years from being 'smart', because off-shore wind and other major sources of renewable energy are also 10+ years away, we need to accelerate our thinking from that 'government computing' model (where only a select few could access and control systems) to an 'energy internet' model where homeowners, municipalities, commercial buildings, and even some small (under 20MW) utility-scale generating facilities generate power to serve loads within 10-20 miles of generation. Only by promoting the energy Internet and the technologies that can be cost-effectively and quickly deployed to get us there will we reach energy independence in a short period of time.

    To learn more about the Smart Grid, and the Energy Internet/distributed generation, please go to: http://www.buildbabybuild.net/...

  • Ken Smith

    Focusing on the Smart Grid can have detrimental impact on our acceleration towards energy independence. Think about the development of the computer/Internet industry. The Smart Grid mainly benefits a 'government computing' model of energy generation and distribution and one that heavily favored major industry incumbents (which is why you see so much sponsored press supporting what on the face a great idea)

    But dig deeper and you will see the limitations of focusing on a Smart Grid. Because the grid is over taxed, because it is 10+ years from being 'smart', because off-shore wind and other major sources of renewable energy are also 10+ years away, we need to accelerate our thinking from that 'government computing' model (where only a select few could access and control systems) to an 'energy internet' model where homeowners, municipalities, commercial buildings, and even some small (under 20MW) utility-scale generating facilities generate power to serve loads within 10-20 miles of generation. Only by promoting the energy Internet and the technologies that can be cost-effectively and quickly deployed to get us there will we reach energy independence in a short period of time.

    To learn more about the Smart Grid, and the Energy Internet/distributed generation, please go to: http://www.buildbabybuild.net/...

  • Ken Smith

    Focusing on the Smart Grid can have detrimental impact on our acceleration towards energy independence. Think about the development of the computer/Internet industry. The Smart Grid mainly benefits a 'government computing' model of energy generation and distribution and one that heavily favored major industry incumbents (which is why you see so much sponsored press supporting what on the face a great idea)

    But dig deeper and you will see the limitations of focusing on a Smart Grid. Because the grid is over taxed, because it is 10+ years from being 'smart', because off-shore wind and other major sources of renewable energy are also 10+ years away, we need to accelerate our thinking from that 'government computing' model (where only a select few could access and control systems) to an 'energy internet' model where homeowners, municipalities, commercial buildings, and even some small (under 20MW) utility-scale generating facilities generate power to serve loads within 10-20 miles of generation. Only by promoting the energy Internet and the technologies that can be cost-effectively and quickly deployed to get us there will we reach energy independence in a short period of time.

    To learn more about the Smart Grid, and the Energy Internet/distributed generation, please go to: http://www.buildbabybuild.net/...

  • sherry jansen

    The high cost of fuel this past year did serious damage to our economy and society. After a brief reprieve gas prices are inching back up again. Our nation should not allow other nations to have such power over us and our economy . We have so much available to us in the way of technology and free sources of energy. WE seriously need to get on with becoming an energy independent nation. We are spending billions upon billions in bail out dollars. Why not spend some of those billions in getting alternative energy projects set up. We could create clean cheap energy, millions of badly needed new green jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil all in one fell swoop. I just read an eye opening book by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009. It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to drive and charge an electric car.If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. Why don't we use some of the billions in bail out money to bail us out of our dependence on foreign oil? This past year the high cost of fuel so seriously damaged our economy and society that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come. www.themanhattanprojectof2009....

  • sherry jansen

    The high cost of fuel this past year did serious damage to our economy and society. After a brief reprieve gas prices are inching back up again. Our nation should not allow other nations to have such power over us and our economy . We have so much available to us in the way of technology and free sources of energy. WE seriously need to get on with becoming an energy independent nation. We are spending billions upon billions in bail out dollars. Why not spend some of those billions in getting alternative energy projects set up. We could create clean cheap energy, millions of badly needed new green jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil all in one fell swoop. I just read an eye opening book by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009. It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to drive and charge an electric car.If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. Why don't we use some of the billions in bail out money to bail us out of our dependence on foreign oil? This past year the high cost of fuel so seriously damaged our economy and society that the ripple effects will be felt for years to come. www.themanhattanprojectof2009....