Smart Grid money popular in the USA - 18 Sep 2009

The US Department of Energy program to distribute $615 million to fund projects demonstrating smart-grid technology has attracted 140 proposals requesting a total of $2.3 billion.

With companies required to chip in 50% of the cost, the $615 million in grants will support at least $1.2 billion in smart-grid projects.

The aim of the Energy Department program, part of the $3.9 billion in stimulus funds targeting the nation's electrical system, is to take smart-grid technologies out of the laboratory and test their wide-scale viability and cost-effectiveness.

So far, the Department of Energy is keeping details of the proposals confidential, but a number of the nation's largest utilities, including American Electric Power, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison, have publicized their applications.

Defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are in partnership with utilities to provide security for the digital communication network at the heart of many smart-grid technologies, as well as other technical expertise.

There are pilot projects such as helping consumers manage energy use within their homes by installing devices like programmable communicating thermostats, which can respond to system-wide changes in electrical.

Energy storage is another area of interest for the smart-grid demonstration grant program. Devising cost-effective, reliable and scalable energy storage is seen as a major challenge for utilities, as larger and larger sources of intermittent energy, like wind and solar, come online.

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