The Evolving Smart Grid a Reason to Smile on Earth Day

Carl Weinschenk

This CNET piece, posted to commemorate Earth Day, doesn't focus directly on telecommunications and IT. It does make the connection at the end, however. In any case, it's a worthwhile and interesting piece because it does a great job of illustrating how smart grid can both help the environment and save money for users.


The author, CNET Green Tech senior writer Martin LaMonica, is a homeowner in Massachusetts who described his experience with grid-tiered solar photovoltaic panels. LaMonica clearly is an energy-conscious gentleman. His employment as a CNET editor suggests that combining a certain level of geekiness with environmental activism can have good results.


LaMonica says that his bills already were low. The savings the solar panels offered led his family to challenge itself to be "net zero," meaning that the home produces more energy than it uses. The excess can be injected into the grid and, presumably, give the family a credit of some sort. The dynamic led the family to find other ways to reduce its use. Thus, the solar panels both cut the family's carbon footprint and led the family find other efficiencies.


LaMonica writes that it's difficult to get detailed information on home energy consumption, which obviously is an important tool for families trying to push the savings envelope. It should be noted that Google and Microsoft both are rushing to fill this need.


There's no shortage of news on the smart grid front.



  • The Naperville (Ill.) City Council voted 7-0 to work with the U.S. Department of Energy on what the Chicago Tribune describes as a three-year, $22 million project that could result in the installation of 57,000 smart meters on homes in the city.


  • On the standards front, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers P1901 Working Group has approved the draft of the powerline networking standard. ZDNet's Heather Clancy points out that a part of the document deals with smart energy and smart grid applications.

  • The American Transmission Co. announced two grants from the Department of Energy totaling $12.7 million for smart grid. The first grant, for $1.3 million, will help ATC introduce phasor measurement units into its substations. The second grant, for $11.4 million, will help enhance fiber communications between ATC's substation and operation center.


None of these items is earth shattering, and that are not linked in any manner other than that they occurred within a few days of each other. Taken together, however, they suggest an industry sector that is doing the unexciting but necessary infrastructure work on a number of fronts. Indeed, it appears that the smart-grid industry has a lot of energy.

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