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Are you SMART? Introducing the SMART Grid

SMART goals, phones, buildings, cars, grid, retirement, boards, paint, bridges, etc. The SMART revolution is upon us! This post introduces the SMART grid. However, I was amazed at the number of other products, tools, and applications that lead with SMART or smart in their names. A few are certainly worth mentioning as a part of the introduction to this topic.

SMART Goals: I have participated in or led a number of strategic planning activities over the years. Some of these past exercises included developing mission and vision statements, and organizational goals and objectives. With respect to organizational goals, we didn’t just want any goals, we wanted SMART goals. For those of you who have gone through this exercise you know that SMART with respect to goals stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. SMART goals are a good thing to have, and helps the organization align these goals with its mission statement.

SMART Phones: according to About.com, a smart phone is a device that lets you make telephone calls, but also has features that you might find on a personal digital assistant or a computer. A smartphone also offers the ability to send and receive e-mail and edit Office documents. Most smartphones offer the following standard features: operating system, web access, QWERTY keyboard (the keys are laid out in the same manner as those on your computer keyboard), and messaging that includes texting and the ability to send and receive email. By the way, I am a proud owner of an iPhone 4 which does just about everything that the IPhone 4S does.

 Apple iPhone 4S

SMART Buildings: a building automation system (BAS) is usually referred to as an intelligent building system or smart home. The primary purpose of a BAS is to provide climate control and lighting based on an occupancy schedule, monitor system performance and device failures of equipment, and email and/or text notifications to designated staff. The BAS functionality reduces building energy and maintenance costs when compared to a non-controlled building.

SMART Cars: Rising gas prices were the topics of Blog Posts 2 and 3. Anyone who is trying to relieve the pain at the pump as well as tout eco-friendliness is a fan of smart cars. Interestingly, the Smart brand is available in the automobile market today. It is owned by Germany’s Daimler and managed by subsidiary Mercedes-Benz, whose dealers sell the cars in the U.S. market. Smart currently markets one model, the two-seat ForTwo, which comes in hardtop and convertible forms. It is touted as the smallest car in theU.S. market and comes in a gasoline and electric models. The gasoline version gets 38 miles per gallon (mpg) highway, and the electric version gets up to 87 mpg highway. A more intriguing selling point for this vehicle is that it is 85% recyclable!

ForTwo Smart Car (custom model)

While other cars may not have the “smart” name, those that achieve similar or better fuel efficiency have also been tagged “smart vehicles”.

SMART Grid:  the last “smart” topic that will be discussed in this blog is the SMART grid. According to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist,AmericanMuseum of Natural History, “Our current electrical grid is basically an interstate for electricity, and it goes all over the country. However, this century-old marvel of engineering is ill-equipped to handle the demands of an energy-hungry society. Not only is it dirty, about half of our electricity comes from coal-burning power plants that emit greenhouse gases. More than half of our energy is lost in the way we produce, transmit and use it.”

 Typical Utility Power Grid

A smart grid enables more efficient, reliable and clean use of energy, by allowing electricity to be measured and controlled from the source of generation, through transmission and distribution, to consumption. Smart grids have been likened to a sophisticated air traffic control system for electric utilities. They also support transient power sources like solar and wind, heading off devastating power outages and enabling consumers to make greener and more economical choices about how and when to power up.

A number of electrical utilities, universities, professional engineering and technical societies, research groups, and individuals have been developing the concept of a SMART grid for several years now. Smart meters, smart sensors and smart control rooms will certainly be a part of it. Much of the “smart revolution” in the electric utility industry has followed the expanding influence of the internet, computers, and information technology within theU.S.and abroad.  Future blogs will discuss the pros and cons of the SMART grids as well as the challenges of developing and building it.

In closing, the U.S.is severely behind in upgrading its electric utility and power generation systems when compared to countries in Europe and Russia, China, Indiaand several of the Arab states. Much of our current grid was designed 50 years ago, well before the invention of the micro-processor. It is and has been showing strains of the increasing demands that new technology and equipment is placing on it. Dr. Alan Mantooth, a Fellow with the Institute for Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) and Director of Standards for the IEEE Power Electronics Society characterizes the Smart Grid as a “grand challenge” that requires sustained attention and commitment from industry and all stakeholders.  Going from here to there will also take great passion along with diversity of thought and conversation.  

References used for this blog:
SmartBuildings; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_buildings
Smart Cars: http://www.smartusa.com/
Smart Grid: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/power-grid.html
Smart Grid: http://www.smartgrid.ieee.org

About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


4 thoughts on “Are you SMART? Introducing the SMART Grid

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