Smart Grid Developments

Advanced metering pushback in California, Siemens test and contest

2 min read
Smart Grid Developments

California's plan to have smart meters installed universally by the end of next year is running into some opposition in PG&E's northern territory. According to a recent report in EnergyBiz magazine, some customers believe they are "suffering health effects including migraine headaches, heart palpitations and nausea from the emissions of the radio frequency meters." Because of such complaints, the state's uitility commission has ordered the utility to prepare some kind of opt-out option for disgruntled customers. It remains to be seen how much the development may impede installation of some 17 million advanced meters.

On a more positive note, Siemens is doing a two-year test in a Germany city to evaluate a self-organizing, automated electricity distribution system in which an increased shared of energy from renewables must be accommodated. To be carried out in cooperation with the local utility, a local college, and the Aachen technical university, the project is dubbed Irene, for Integration of Renewable Energies and Electric Mobility. Besides incorporating power from wind turbines, solar cells, and biogas generators, Irene will provide for electric vehicle charging, and for the EVs to store electricity. The "Siemens role in this smart grid pilot project involves installation of software developed by its global research [arm] Corporate Technology," says the company's press release.

Siemens also has announced a global contest in which five smart grid business or technology proposals that could "help the world become a better place" will be recognized: "The world around us is changing. To lower CO2 emissions, we need to rely on renewable energy sources.  For that, the current energy network needs to become more flexible and intelligent," says the contest site. Winners will receive $21,000 each and a trip to Berlin to meet with Siemens smart grid experts. Siemans has also promised to spend more than $1.5 million to test the best ideas in the real world. Proposals will be accepted through June 15.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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