By 2015, if General Electric has their way, all our homes will be running on smart grids with mini-turbines and solar panels to produce electricity, consuming zero net energy in the process.
GE says that their smart energy system, dubbed the Net Zero Home project, will center around a $250 central management hub that will allow all of a home's networked appliances and on-site power-producing equipment talk to each other, as well as to the smart grid outside the home..
Using one of the most clever names in tech history, Microsoft has announced Hohm (which telescopes home into ohm), a new Web-based service for keeping an eye on your smart grid. The beta for the service goes live next week; users can sign up to access the service at microsoft-hohm.com.
The American electric grid is an engineering marvel, arguably the single largest and most complex machine in the world. It's also 40 years old and so rickety that power interruptions and blackouts cost the economy some $150 billion a year. The idea of building a connected "smart" grid that can route power intelligently is beyond daunting, no matter how much stimulus money gets thrown at it. But if we want to cut carbon, we have no choice. Today's grid simply cannot handle a large-scale rollout of the clean-energy sources outlined in this series.
This December, when representatives from 170 countries meet at the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen to replace the expiring Kyoto climate treaty, the smart money predicts unprecedented collaboration. American political change coupled with spiking carbon dioxide levels could inspire a communal project on a scale not seen since World War II. A consensus, backed by science, is emerging among the international community that by 2050 we need to reduce emissions of C02, methane and other greenhouse gases to approximately 80 percent lower than they were in 1990.
It will mean a wholesale reinvention of the global energy economy; anything less could result in catastrophe. Here's how we'll get there.
New "smart" electricity meters, beginning to be rolled out across the country, may be rife with bugs that could pose security risks. The new meters create a smart communication network between the user and the local power plant. The software that powers some of the smart meters, however, is coming under fire from security experts for its lack of adequate protections against malicious hacks.
A small kibbutz in Israel has installed the world's first solar-hybrid power plant to fulfill all their energy needs. Composed of 30 solar reflectors and one kooky-looking "flower" tower, the plant can switch to gas-powered turbines after dark to keep the system producing power 24-hours a day. The best part is that the plant takes up a relatively small amount of space for its output and can power remote areas that are not connected to larger grids.