Climate Change Corps
Power to the peoplePower Partners: Smart Grid Technology
The key element of a smart grid is that, unlike a dumb one, it will be able to take power from multiple sources and distribute it according to demand so that optimum efficiency is achieved. There will be less reliance on massive power plants. Energy will be generated locally and fed into ‘intelligrids’ organised at municipal level, with surpluses being sold to other areas, according to demand.
Renewables will provide a far greater share of power than today. A farmer might have a wind turbine on his or her land, or a generator producing power from flowing water. Households might have mini wind generators on the roof. The goal, as Spencer Abraham, another former US energy secretary, recently said, is “a two-way electricity grid where homes or businesses can sell their surplus power back to the grid”.
Sophisticated software that accurately measures demand will monitor the network. Homes and offices will have meters that respond to peaks and troughs. The future grid has been compared to an ‘energy internet’ with ‘user-generated’ electricity feeding into it from every direction. US economist Jeremy Rifkin has christened the future power infrastructure the “intergrid”. Management of it, he has said, will be “the next IT revolution.”
Smart energy grids are electrical power's killer ap. Smart grids manage supply from a variety of distributed sources - conventional power plants, but also solar, wind and hydro plants as well as people's home energy systems. They not only help prevent blackouts, they actively encourage alternative energy. Smarter, better, greener...Bright Lights, Small Villages
This all rocks pretty hard, but it gets downright seismic when you start to consider the implications for the developing world, where there is often no grid worth speaking of to replace. There, if we can get the price down enough, distributed energy and smart grids could do for power what cellphones have done for communications - leapfrog entire regions right over the 20th Century and into the 21st.
Solar power and other decentralized sources of energy can help get around these problems. Mobile phones in Africa, Asia, and Latin America provide a hopeful parallel. For decades, people in developing nations had to put up with expensive and poorly designed telephone networks controlled by corrupt and inefficient bureaucrats. But over the past five years, entrepreneurs have built cellular-phone networks that, in effect, circumvent the national telephone system. Five years ago, Ghana didn't have mobile phones. But as a U.N. task force recently discovered, more cell phone connections have been turned on in Africa in the last five years than land-lineU.S. Department of Energy (Grid 2030 .pdf)
connections in the past century.
Grid 2030 is a fully automated power delivery network that monitors and controls every customer and node, ensuring a two-way flow of electricity and information between the power plant and the appliance, and all points in between. Its distributed intelligence, coupled with broadband communications and automated control systems, enables real-time market transactions and seamless interfaces among people, buildings, industrial plants, generation facilities, and the electric network."Towards Smart Power Networks"
European energy research is helping to transform the energy system into one which will be more sustainable and more compatible with the ecosystem. Within this framework, energy research is a key factor for the development of a sustainable European economy in the context of the Lisbon Strategy, a major priority for the European Union which is intended to boost competitiveness, job creation, social cohesion and environmental sustainability.Better Generation (UK)
Wind generators, fuel cells, photovoltaic panels and micro-turbines – to mention just a few – are new forms of electricity generation currently being developed. They make up the so-called Renewable Energies and Distributed Generation; some of which are small or mediumsized, while others are intermittent or even stochastic. Today, wind power and Combined Heat and Power are reaching a competitive level with the traditional forms of energy generation. Maybe tomorrow we will be talking about micro-turbines, fuel cells and photovoltaics.
selling electricity to the gridTake your power back! Cover your house in solar panels, it might be a worthwhile investment in your region.
Assuming your house is connected to the national grid, you can sell any surplus electricity you generate back to your energy supplier, (although it is sometimes hard to get the appropriate red tape completed).There are basically two options for selling your renewable energy back to your electricity supplier. If you're prepared to fill in a lot of forms it's possible to get paid the same price per unit exported as you pay to buy it off your supplier (net metering). Alternatively, there's an easier option where you get paid less per unit generated, but it's a lot less hassle.
the net metering option
If you've invested in some serious energy-generating kit, and you expect to produce a lot of surplus electricity, you'll want to set up a net metering arrangement. This means that your energy supplier will pay you a decent price for every spare kW of electricity generated that you don't need yourself. It does mean you'll need to get an OFGEM-approved Export Meter - your supplier may be able to help.