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What makes a grid smarter?

By Seema Wadhwa, Director Healthier Hospitals Initiative

I have often heard the term smart grid but I have to admit I realized I needed to further educate myself on exactly what that meant. What I learned can best be described by saying a smart grid is very much like a living system.

To better understand this, let’s look at this concept on a small scale. Consider your daily use of energy, you are using many of your appliances such as your stove, dishwasher and washing machine either first thing in the morning or early evening. This is typically for most households. This cycle of energy use is called the peak of energy demand and it occurs in the morning and the evening. Our power grid system therefore needs to be built to provide power at this highest energy usage level. This is how our current energy supply infrastructure is built. This is where a smart grid differs. Rather than simply providing energy, this new grid would include data management systems relaying two-way information on energy usage and availability. What this would look like on small scale would mean that rather than your dishwasher being run at peak times the same time that it is peak demand, it may be run in the middle of the night when there is still a lot of capacity in the grid to provide energy. This series of real time, built-in processes is what makes the grid smart. To learn more about smart grids, visit this site: http://www.smartgrid.gov/the_smart_grid

The question to consider is what can we do to be smart about how we use our energy before we get to the smart grid?  Please feel free to share your thoughts and what you are doing to be smart about how you use the grid at home and at work.

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