The Department of Energy on Monday awarded $57 million in funding to modernize the electricity grid with projects designed to make transmission more reliable and reduce power consumption in homes.
The money, from the stimulus act passed earlier this year, will be for six demonstration projects for the smart grid, a collection of technologies aimed at making the electricity system more efficient, reliable, and capable of using more solar and wind power.
Another $10.5 million in grants is available for local governments to create emergency preparedness plans related to energy, such as outages.
"Modernizing our electrical grid to make it stronger, smarter, more efficient and more secure is a crucial step in expanding renewable energy and creating jobs," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a statement. "These investments will help lay the foundation for American leadership in the clean energy economy."
The Department of Energy on Monday also released the Smart Grid System Report (click for PDF) a status report on the changes required to implement smart-grid technologies.
The study found that some technologies, such as advanced two-way meters, are being adopted quickly. But the country as a whole needs more experience with smart-grid technologies and the business and regulatory changes required are only now taking shape.
In addition, the DOE concludes that it's likely that changes to behavior are needed to realize the benefits of efficiency. "A smart grid is socially transformational. As with the Internet or cell phone communications, our experience with electricity will change dramatically. To successfully integrate high levels of automation requires cultural change," according to the report.
Some of the six demonstration projects test how more automation can be integrated into the utility business using demand response, where energy consumption is dialed down at customer sites during peak times.
For example, Consolidated Edison received $5.6 million to demonstrate interoperability of demand-response systems. The City of Fort Collins got $4.8 million to develop a system that reduces peak load by 15 percent and increases use of distributed renewable power.
Other projects are designed to test out more efficient ways of transmitting electricity and preventing outages.
American Superconductor, which makes superconductor wires for efficient transmission, was awarded money for two projects for high-temperature superconductors and system to restrict power surges.
Previous smart-grid coverage
- FAQ: What the smart grid means to you
There are many definitions and technologies under the smart grid banner. What's the goal and why all the attention?
- Images: The many faces of the smart grid
There are many technologies that go into making the smart grid, a grid that is more efficient and reliable as a whole.
- Are consumers ready for the smart grid?
Smart meters and in-home energy displays are trickling out into people's homes. But there's still some question whether the technology is consumer-friendly enough.
- GE: Smart grid yields net-zero energy home
At its research labs, GE says it has the smart-grid technology, including solar panels and efficient appliances, to build a home that has a net-zero energy consumption.
- Photos: GE's smart-grid kitchen of the future
At its research labs, GE shows off demand-response appliances that can take advantage of cheaper electricity rates automatically.
- Control4 adds energy monitoring to home network
Best known for its home entertainment controllers, Control4 gets funds to expand into smart-grid products to monitor and control home energy use.
- GE appliances to connect to smart grid via Tendril
Smart-grid start-up Tendril Networks and GE will test a system in which home appliances share data with utilities to cut electricity consumption.