Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spokane hosts conference focused on developing the nation's smart grid

Proving that the west side of the state doesn’t have a monopoly on hot, new technology, experts on smart grid design are gathering in Spokane today and tomorrow for the National Smart Grid Conference, held at the Spokane Convention Center.

"Grid” refers to the infrastructure that brings energy from power sources like hydroelectric dams, gas-fired power plants and wind farms, through distribution centers and on to users like you and me. Right now, the United States has an overburdened, frayed system that is increasingly prone to blackouts costing Americans at least $150 billion a year. Compared to that figure, the $4.5 billion in federal stimulus money that the Obama administration has recently pledged to smart grid projects looks like peanuts.

Part of the Obama’s administration’s vision of a clean energy future is an investment in America’s power grid. Smart grid engineers envision a future where locally produced energy flows at just the right time to just the right customer, saving money on both ends and providing reliable, gentle-to-the-Earth power.

From the Department of Energy’s smart grid guide (large download size):
The electric industry is poised to make the transformation from a centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is less centralized and more consumer-interactive.
What a relief it is to see the federal government again taking a lead in supporting scientific research and development. We wasted the last eight years by not making a serious national push to develop truly groundbreaking technologies and bring them to market. The feds have enormous resources to put great American minds to work solving our big problems.

Smart institutions in Washington are jumping into the smart grid game. According to Senator Maria Cantwell, co-host of the Spokane conference:
Already companies across Eastern Washington are implementing these technologies and creating thousands of jobs. Researchers and inventors at places like Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University and Gonzaga University are already pushing the envelope and running pilot projects and studies that are shaping the way the world deals with the electricity grid.
In much the same way that the Internet revolutionized the way we use information today, ten years from now the smart grid will revolutionize the way we receive and use energy. We may even change from being just consumers of energy to being both consumers and producers. And we might even get paid for doing it.

For a fascinating and in depth look at the nation’s smart grid plan, check out the Department of Energy’s guide to the smart grid (PDF).

Editor's note: NPI contributing writer Patrick Stickney is covering the conference in Spokane today and tomorrow. Stay tuned for additional reporting of what's happening in the Lilac City here on The Adovcate.


Post a Comment

<< Home