Obama Announces $3.4B in Electric “Smart Grid” Grants

President Barack Obama today announced today $3.4 billion in government grants to help build a “smart” electric grid and smart meters that will save consumers money on their utility bills, reduce blackouts and carry power supplies generated by solar and wind energy, the White House said.

It marks the largest award made in a single day from the $787 billion stimulus package, and will create tens of thousands of jobs while upgrading the U.S. electric grid, according to administration officials.

The grants (below), which range from $400,000 to $200 million, will go to 100 companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners in 49 states — every state except Alaska. Here’s a full listing by state (pdf) and catagory (pdf). The Also-Ran’s may go forward, scaled back, or shelved.

President Obama made the announcement after taking a tour of an array of 90,000 solar panels that line a grassy plain of cow pastures in the muggy heart of Florida at the Florida Power & Light Arcadia facility, the largest in the United States.

Constructed in less than a year, the The DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Florida, uses over 90,000 photovoltaic panels to generate 25 megawatts, enough to power more than 3,000 homes.

The facility will overtake Nevada’s Nellis Solar Power Plant for the title of largest solar photovoltaic solar facility in the nation and in North America. A 12.6-megawatt solar system, located in the Nevada desert near Boulder City, costs $0.075 per kilowatt hour to install without any subsidies. Conventional power fed into the grid costs $0.09 per kilowatt hour.

The Florida PV array is one of three new commercial-scale, renewable, solar power plants that Florida Light is building, along with one in Martin County and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Together, these will total 110 megawatts of capacity by the end of 2010 and are expected to make Florida the second largest solar power-producing state in the country.

Florida Light is also deploying hundreds of thousands of smart meters in people’s homes throughout Florida using Silver Spring Networks IP-based networking infrastructure.

The Silver Springs Access Point provides a connection to electricity, water and gas meters over a neighborhood area network (NAN). It supports a variety of WANs, including Zigbee and cellular, to leverage both existing utility networking infrastructures and low-cost public carrier networks.

Another company, Grid Net (below), formed a collaboration with GE Energy and Intel, that is focusing solely on WiMAX for their last mile connectivity.

Grid Net along with Motorola and GE are installing WiMAX-enabled smart meters in almost 700,000 households and businesses in Australia by 2013.

The three largest US Smart Meter grants awarded today (pdf) are:

  • CenterPoint Energy ($200M):
    The installation of 2.2 million smart meters around Houston will further strengthen the reliability and self-healing properties of the grid by installing more than 550 sensors and automated switches that will help protect against system disturbances like natural disasters (Coverage Map).
  • Baltimore Gas and Electric Company ($200M):
    Deploy a smart meter network and advanced customer control system for 1.1 million residential customers that will enable dynamic electricity pricing. Expand the utility’s direct load control program, which will enhance grid reliability and reduce congestion (Coverage Map).
  • Central Maine Power Company ($96M):
    Install a smart meter network for all residential, commercial and industrial customers in the utility’s service territory – approximately 650,000 meters (Coverage Map).

When completed, Florida’s 100,000 electric meter project is expected to be one of the largest IP-based AMI networks in the country.

The Recovery Act combined with private investment is expected to deploy more than 40 million smart meters in American homes and businesses over the next few years with more than 1 million in-home displays, 170,000 smart thermostats, and 175,000 other load control devices to enable consumers to reduce their energy use.

The Administration believes Smart Grid technology will:

  • Create tens of thousands of jobs.
  • Reduce power outages that cost American consumers $150 billion a year–every man, woman and child in the United States will save about $500 each year.
  • Allow consumers to cut their electricity bills through “smart meters.”

The smart grid will include a smart-meter monitoring device paired with electricity meters at buildings which collect data on energy use, as well as control many of the electrical appliances in the building, said Craig Settles, a broadband analyst and president of consulting firm Successful.com.

Those devices connect back to the electric utility through an IP network, often with fiber or possibly broadband wireless networks. With that in mind, smart grid and broadband applicants can work together, or piggyback on each other’s networks, Settles said.

Obama made his Smart Grid remarks at the newest (and largest) solar photovolatic power facility in the United States — which produces 25 megawatts via photovoltaics. The 25 MW plant in Arcadia, Florida, is about the 15th largest in the world. A 75 MW solar project, planned in central Washington, could become the world’s largest solar power plant.

The world’s largest photovoltaic power plants are all in Europe. Currently the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant is a 60 MW facility in Spain. The Solar Energy Industries Association says the average cost of going solar in the U.S. declined by more than 30 percent from 1998 to 2008, with 292 MW grid-connected.

The map (below) of wind turbine generating facilities along the Columbia River in the Northwest United States shows more than one thousand MegaWatts on-line now — and another thousand being built or planned.

The map shows wind turbine farms along the Columbia River that are built (green), under construction (yellow) and planned (red). More than 1000 MW is on-line now, and more that 1000 MW is under construction or planned. The clear winner in alternative energy capacity so far is wind.

In 2008, United States wind power generation capacity passed the 25 gigawatt mark by adding over 8 gigawatts from the year before. Cumulative wind turbine deployments will exceed 40,000 units during the period from 2010 to 2015, says Pike Research.

The Roscoe Wind Farm in East Texas is currently the largest in the world with 781.5 megawatt (MW) capacity. Next year, the 303 turbine Shepherds Flat Wind Farm near Arlington, Oregon will be capable of generating 909 MW, and is expected to become the world’s largest wind farm when completed next year. That’s enough electricity to power some 225,000 homes. In July 2009, T Bone Pickens delayed (but did not cancel) his proposed 4,000 MW wind turbine project, citing the lack of transmission capacity to the site and poor credit market.

The American Wind Energy Association reports the total wind energy capacity added this year to date is over 5,800 MW. AWEA also reported that wind turbine manufacturing still lags below 2008 levels, in both production and new announcements. The total wind power capacity now operating in the U.S. is over 31,000 MW, generating enough electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 9 million homes.

Earlier this week, the Department of Energy announced ARPA-E winners (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy), awarding a total of $151 million for 37 projects. Winners in this first round include General Motors ($2.7 million), battery materials startup Envia Systems ($4 million), ultracapacitor developer FastCAP Systems ($5.3 million), auto supplier Delphi Automotive Systems ($6.7 million), solar tech developer 1366 Technologies ($4 million), efficient designers PAX Streamline ($3 million), and several universities.

A website called Sustainlane lists the following cities as the “Top Ten US Cities for Renewable Energy“: 1. Oakland, CA 2. Sacramento/SF/San Jose, CA 3. Portland, OR 4. Boston 5. San Diego 6. Austin, TX 7. Los Angeles 8. Minneapolis, MN 9. Seattle 10. Chicago.

The United States is the largest energy consumer in terms of total use, using 29000 TWh in 2005. The U.S. ranks seventh in energy consumption per-capita after Canada and a number of small countries. The majority of this energy is derived from fossil fuels: in 2005, it was estimated that 40% of the nation’s energy came from petroleum, 23% from coal, and 23% from natural gas. Nuclear power supplied 8.4% and renewable energy supplied 7.3%, which was mainly from hydroelectric dams although other renewables are included such as wind power, geothermal and solar energy.

Gleisdorf, Austria has a unique “street of Solar”, more than 3,500 meters long that passes more than 100 solar power displays including a 17 m high solar tree, the 6-m-high solar sundial, a solar piano, solar signs, information terminals, Solarcafe, Solar Telescope and solar-powered fountains.

Dailywireless has more on Smart Meters, including Cisco Launches Smart Grid Consortium, Alvarion Partners in Smart Grid Test, WiMAX SmartGrid Coming to 700K Australians, Zigbee Radio with 2 Mile Range, Google Power Meter , ABI: Stimulus Means Big Bucks for Wireless, The Smart Grid: Licensed or Unlicensed Spectrum, Cellular-enabled SCADA, Smart Grid: Dumb or What?, Smart Grid: It’s Alive!, Google: Smart Power R US, 900 Mhz Telemetry, Traffic Cameras and ITS and the Corpus Christi Cloud.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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