Monday, June 15, 2009

June 18 Deeper Smart Grid Seminar

The smart grid is a new way of thinking born of necessity and possibility. Yesterday electricity was made in large distant plants. They burned the dinosaur remains of eons of sunlight stored by plantlife. They captured heat from the decay of elements like uranium. Or they slowed, for a moment, the gravity imperative of rivers seeking unity with oceans.

The big plants fed power through very high voltage transmission lines, the major arteries, to smaller and smaller capillaries connected to your neighborhood. It was returned through the earth whenever you turned on a light switch or the washing machine. The big plants needed to make at least as much power as the unpredictable instantaneous demand.

All this is changing. Thousands of small power plants - wind turbines, geothermal plants and solar farms are now feeding in power at the capillaries. The capability exists for variable power pricing, controlled by you, or maybe your smart clothes dryer, which can take a break when power is expensive. Plug in cars can store energy then release it back to the grid at any point there is an outlet.

The smart grid is a network of tiny computers built into your electric meter, heating, cooling, major appliances and car. They will communicate to measure how electricity is used, manage its use wisely and give you information to make decisions. Maybe they will communicate with your mobile phone. Scale wise, the number of smart grid computers required in the US is about the total number already on the Internet, worldwide. It is a perfect challenging project.

Will all of those meter readers will be replaced by legions of customer support people helping you run virus scans on your dishwasher? No, the system will need to be designed to be so reliable and secure that it should never be necessary.

Today Portland State University sponsors a seminar on the smart grid. It's all day and registration is required. But there is no charge. All the information is at 8:30AM-5PM Free