"Smart Grid" = "Dumb Idea" ?

Does anyone else here worry that the ‘smart grid’ might not be such a good idea?

I’m referring to plans to make the nation’s electrical grid ‘smarter’ largely via automating home appliaces to measure and/or control demand. I’m not sure if the concept includes more use of computers to control the distibution network itself.

The other ‘optimized’ network that comes to mind is the air traffic network. The network appars to be optimized to safely squeeze the maximum traffic out of the available resources. But as we saw again last week, in a tightly optimized system one problem can propogate across the network and cause widespread interruptions.

I do not know that this is a good parallel with plans to smarten up the electrical grid, but I’d like to hear others views on this.

I have no idea how improving the end user products connected to the electrical grid can be said to make a “smarter” grid. Sound like another dumb marketing scheme to me.

To be honest, I do not like the idea… my schedule is not the schedule that may be anybody else’s … I may NEED to do my laundry at 10 am because I just got a call for a job interview at 2pm, and nothing is clean. If my washer has decided that it will not operate at that time because Buffalo needs air conditioning and chokes out my service, I can’t really do anything if the grid has me locked down. How is it going to handle refrigeration? Is my freezer going to decide it is sucking in too much electricity and cut down on chilling my haagen daaz?

hell, they have enough trouble keeping my electrons flowing as it is now, what will computerizing it do?I already have to have a generator …

Toasters and porch lights that can crash? What’s not to like?

Don’t laugh. I just wrote a column about rebooting things, and found out that a colleague has a picture frame that crashes all the time and needs to be rebooted.

It’s a bit more than that. It’ll allow electric utilities to route power where it needs to go and be more efficient.

Note: .PDF


Start to mess with peoples power to much and they tend to fight back. In Hatti, which is a very poor country, electricity is only on in a section of the city for 8h/day or so. the reason is that that there is not enough to go around (which is sort of a dumb grid way to what the smart grid is suppose to). So many are buying battery banks/inverters which defeats the purpose of the power savings, and if everyone does it actually can make things worse as battery storage/inverters have inefficiencies.

Is the OP serious, or have we been whooshed? :rolleyes:

I don’t know if the OP is serious, but Who-me? has it right.

That also happens with the power grid we have now.

The thing is, something has to be done.

We can

  1. cut back on total electrical use

  2. increase electrical production

  3. or better manage when we use electricity.

  4. It’s being done, with things like flourescent lighting and more efficent appliances, but I don’t see people giving up their AC and their refrigerators any time soon.

  5. It’s a long process to get approval to build a new generator, and there if frequently opposition. It’s not like you mail order one and have it next week, in time for Thanksgiving.

Which leaves 3) Smarter use of what we have available. Example - my freezer, does it really matter very much if it runs at 2:00pm or 3:00pm? If it’s designed well, it doesn’t matter. So set it up to run more when there is less demand. My AC is already on a crude version of this. I get a discount on my electrical bill, because I’ve agreed to let the power company cut back my AC during peak usage hours. Since peak hours happen to be during business hours during the week, I’m not home anyway. So maybe the AC will get cut off between 2 and 3pm, but it affects me not at all.

Yes, I am serious.

I’m not taking a position for or aginst it right now, just asking for data and opinions from others. I can see some plus’es but I also have some worries and don’t know if they’re well-founded or not.

Not that I can change it…

You may not be home during the day, but there are a lot of people who are, or have other oddball requirements for power use at strange times.

Personally, we have changed out regular lights for high efficiency ones, changed out all our appliances to new energy star compliant ones [all the appliances are now under 3 years old] and we have changed from an older wood stove to a new one that is more efficient, and has a cooktop and a baking oven so I can simply use the waste heat from heating the house for cooking [i prefer to use wood to heat with as we get it free from the woodlot behind us so it saves us lots of money]

We’re currently running off an analog system that is about a century old. The smart grid is a digital system. At the national level this is supposed to allow different energy sources to tap into a unified system more easily, and route electricity more effective to homes and businesses. Even now large companies often have strategies for using more energy at night so they’re not drawing power during the day when everyone needs. (To use one example, some buildings make ice at night in the summer and use it during the day to air-condition the building.) Some companies also have backup generators, and have a deal with local utilities to go off-grid and onto the generators at peak times to ease the utility’s load; in return, they get a break on their rates. The concept of the smart grid is to make these kinds of efficiencies more widely feasible, in anticipation of a time when some houses may have enough solar power to sell it back to the utility at certain times.

At the home level, the digital system also means lot more control as well as awareness, and this supposedly leads to efficiency; e.g., if you could count the dollars falling out of your refrigerator door you would close it more quickly.

The benefits of the smart grid to homeowners seem limited to me, but for what it’s worth, so did the benefits of the Internet when I first heard about it. Still, I suspect that the media, in looking for a human interest angle, is overly focused on the programmable-toaster aspect, when the smart grid is really about the unsexy business of updating infrastructure.

I hope it works better than the “smart power strip” I bought. It was supposed to sense when things were plugged in and turned on. The only slot out of seven that worked at all was the sole always-on one. I brought it back the same day.

I think that’s precisely the case. Just as important as optimizing demand is diffusing supply - so that rather than having energy flow from one centralized producer in a region, numerous small producers (e.g. a guy with a solar panel) can feed into the grid, getting a rebate on their electric bill and upping the percentage of renewable energies available to meet demand. Diffused sources of production also tend to be physically closer to the point of demand. Current infrastructure isn’t designed to support this, though.