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What Is the Smart Grid and What Does it Mean for Me?

In this week's episode, Tech Talker covers the Smart Grid and how it will affect your energy future!

By
Eric Escobar,
March 6, 2014
Episode #115

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What is the smart grid?

Last week I talked about the “Internet of Things” or IoT. This encompasses all kinds of devices that are connected to the Internet. Much of this movement toward interconnected devices and sensors has a lot of its foundation in the “smart grid."

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This is another one of those buzz words that has been thrown around a lot. For starters, the grid is short for the electrical grid. This is what distributes electricity across the U.S. to houses, businesses, and, well, pretty much everywhere else.

Today, the grid is, at best, quite fragile. If a piece of it breaks (say when your power lines go down) power is lost. Generally, it’s up to you to report the outage to your utility provider. The smart grid aims to change that. Its goal, among other things, is be more resilient and reactive to changes as they happen.

So why am I talking about this in a podcast? Well, it’s pretty safe to say that almost every electrical device you use throughout your day was either charged by the grid, or is currently using energy from the grid. It powers almost everything electrical, and, without it, all the tech we know and love would be shut off. If you have a generator, of course, that might not be true. But, for most of us, it's a matter of no grid, no power.  

The smart grid, like the Internet of Things, is a pretty, catch-all term of upgrades that are being made throughout portions of the current U.S. electrical grid. Why? Because the U.S. Department of Energy says so! Their research shows that modernization is needed and the current system is both outdated and reaching its limits.

Right now, the U.S. is broken up into three main sectors: East, West, and Texas. These have backbones of high-voltage lines that distribute power across each sector. The lines are then split up and brought down into lower voltages. This happens until the power you need reaches your house.

There’s a lot more to it than that, obviously, but the bottom line is that electricity gets created...and then distributed. The smart grid adds a lot to this process while also organizing and streamlining it so that power goes where it is intended.

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