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Smart Grid Grants

The U.S. government has announced the winners of $3.4 billion in grants for smart grid technology

2 min read

Today, Oct. 27, the Obama administration disclosed the winners of stimulus bill grants for smart grid projects. The president himself made the announcement touring a large photovoltaic power plant in Arcadia, Florida, which happens to be located in an electricity operating area that will benefit from a $200 million project in which Cisco, Florida Power, General Electric, and Silver Spring Networks are involved. By weird coincidence, another beneficiary will be Arcadian Networks (unrelated to Arcadia, Fla.!), which will be working with San Diego Gas & Electric to develop wireless communications for smart meter systems, relying on IEEE's 802.11 WiFi standards. Taking matching funds from private and other public sources, the administration says that total investments in the grid will be $8.1 billion. 

The grant-making process was highly competitive, requiring many utilities and energy companies to learn application procedures they otherwise rarely have to follow. Roughly a quarter of the applicants got grants, which range from quite small to relatively large. Many of the winners—the Cuming County Public Power District, in  West Point, Nebraska;  the town of Danvers, Massachusetts; the Sioux Valley Southwestern Electric Cooperative, in Coleman, South Dakota—are not household names. But the really big winners are.

In all, thirteen companies got grants of $100 million or more. Besides Florida Power & Light, they are: Baltimore Gas and Electric;   Center Point Energy, Houston; Consolidated Edison, New York: Duke Energy and Progress Energy, both in North Carolina; Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tennessee; NV Energy, Las Vegas; Oklahoma Gas and Electric; Sacramento Municipal District, California; Southern Company; Services, Alabama;  Potomac Electric Power Company, District of Columbia; and Detroit Edison. Almost without exception, those grants involve large rollouts of smart meters, along with data processing and communications systems to support them.

A major category of grants go to the organizations that manage and regulate regional transmissions systems, the RTOs and ISOs. Beneficiaries of grants ranging from $3.7 million to $5.39 million are ISO New England, the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, PJM Interconnection, New York ISO, and Western Electricity Coordinating Council. Almost without exception those grants involve rollouts of phasor measurement units, to better monitor and control flows of electricity through the systems.

Among equipment manufacturers, the Whirlpool Corporation gets $19.3 million to further develop smart appliances and networked home communications to support them.



The Conversation (0)
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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