For all their promise to save money and energy use, household energy management systems apparently can’t catch on. Do consumers just not want to know how much power their electronics guzzle on a daily basis?
Soon, when you sleep through your Monday morning alarm, it may be Uncle Sam’s fault. Federal officials are considering an experiment on the nation’s electrical grid that could interrupt the way your appliances tell time — from your bedside alarm to your automatic coffeemaker.
Throwing cost concerns and caution to the wind, the U.S. Department of Energy is getting behind a project that aims to prove that superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES) can work at the grid level. Via a $4.2 million ARPA-E grant, Swiss engineering firm ABB and a handful of partners plan to build a 3.3 kilowatt hour proof-of-concept SMES prototype that, if all goes well, could someday be scaled to megawatt-hour capacity.
The bright green energy future that surely awaits us exists in concept, but as we all know there are key pieces of technology that we still haven't quite figured out, like higher-capacity battery tech or better biofuel processing methods. Similarly, one of the key technology gaps hampering the U.S. energy grid is a lack of understanding regarding superconductors -- materials that can carry electricity with no energy loss. Now, DOE scientists may have cracked a critical part of the superconductor mystery, opening the door to a grid that can carry electrical current over great distances without drastic energy loss.
While the Smart Grid we needed years ago is still years away, the Obama administration took a step forward today as Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $620 million in stimulus awards for 32 Smart Grid demonstration projects benefiting 21 states. A decidedly feel-good video that is nonetheless educational was released along with the announcement and explains (in broad terms at least) what the DOE aims to achieve with its Smart Grid investment. View it after the jump.
A Maui resort community is slated for a new smart grid, courtesy of General Electric. The power grid will cut back energy costs by automatically turning off household appliances when electricity prices soar, and aims for the 2012 goal of reducing peak electricity consumption by 15 percent.
The community of Wailea will see new power meters in homes that help monitor electricity usage among different appliances, according to AP. Part of the project also involves upgrading utility computers so that they can better integrate renewable energy from more unpredictable sources such as solar and wind.
We've told you about bike-sharing programs before, but the Hybrid2 design by Chiyu Chen takes the idea one step further, by using the bikes to put power back in the system. The idea is to put "ultracapacitors" into the bikes that will harness and store the kinetic energy generated by pedaling and braking. Once you return the bike to its rental kiosk, the energy stored in the bike will be transferred to the city's smart grid, and used to help power hybrid buses.
The new smart grid, part 2: Today’s electrical grid is based on 19th century thinking. The growing chorus for building a new smart grid is simply a call to modernize. Here’s how
By Dr. Bill ChameidesPosted 02.27.2009 at 1:04 pm 5 Comments
PopSci.com welcomes back Dr. Bill Chameides, dean of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. Dr. Chameides blogs at The Green Grok to spark lively discussions about environmental science, keeping you in the know on what the scientific world is discovering and how it affects you – all in plain language and, hopefully, with a bit of fun. Now, PopSci.com partners with The Green Grok to bring you exclusive new blog posts a week before they hit the Grok's blog.