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Cisco launches router , switch for smart grids

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The networking giant plans to release two pieces of equipment–a router and a network switch–aimed at helping utilities create better communication systems designed not only to help automate electrical substations, but someday connect “smart meters” in homes and variable sources … Continue reading

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Google could rule in car industry

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The recent linking of General Motors and Google for a handful of services related to the plug-in Chevy Volt marks an intersection for automakers and Internet giants. The two industries — one little changed for  decades and marked by steel and manufacturing, … Continue reading

Smart Grid provide energy to USPS

GridPoint says it has scored a deal to provide its energy management system to potentially 2,250 United States Postal Service locations in the U.S. USPS (United States Postal Service)  needs all the help it can get when it comes to reducing costs, and has been working on reducing energy use in its facilities by 30 percent by 2015. Using GridPoint’s energy management tools, USPS will be able to track, monitor and manage the energy consumption in its buildings.

A year ago GridPoint bought up stealthy Canadian energy management startup Lixar SRS, which had developed software to help businesses and consumers manage energy use. Lixar’s interface and design had gotten praise from its users, and at the time of the acquisition GridPoint said it would use the Lixar tool to “enhance its enterprise-class software.”

Buying up energy management players has become a bit of a trend for the larger smart grid infrastructure companies. Wireless network player Silver Spring Networks acquired Greenbox, and demand response company EnerNOC has bought up five various energy management startups.

For GridPoint, and these other smart grid firms, a contract like the one with USPS is a solid win. The organization has thousands of locations across the U.S., which means more sales, but also an interesting test bed to pilot the system at similar sites but with different geographies (energy consumption trends can be very regional). USPS has also been experimenting with green cars, and Bright Automotive, which makes a plug-in hybrid car called the IDEA, has a contract to retrofit a standard postal service fleet vehicle with its electric drive train and test the vehicle in Washington, D.C., for a year.

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Smart Grid Symposium 2010

Smart Grid is revolutionizing the electric utility industry, transforming today’s aging electric grid into a dynamic, optimized Smart Grid that is better suited to meet client demand and the challenges of today’s economic and political climate.

Smart meters are all the rage right now, but Smart Grid is far more than just meters, and it’s coming faster than you ever expected. Driven by aggressive public policies and funding, Smart Grid is reshaping the utility industry and how utilities build and manage their information and communication technology (ICT) networks. This vital symposium:

  • Examines best practices and case studies of utilities on the front line of Smart Grid implementation today
  • Reveals unexpected effects and costs of Smart Grid on planning and development
  • Highlights new and anticipated regulations, business change drivers, and technical standards that will affect your ICT networks now and in the future

Attend this symposium for actionable information and deep insights into how Smart Grid is transforming everything in our industry.

This event is from May 23 to May26th at Indiana Convention Center , IN.

Some of the topics are :

  • Building the Smart Grid for Electric Cars—How You Can Plug in
  • Smart Networks Council Open Meeting
  • Smart Grids: Managing Data from Massive Numbers of Networked Devices—Better Planning for Better Results
  • New Wireless Options for Utilities
  • and more….

For more info click here

Smart Grid will be bigger than the Internet?

There a number of strong parallels between the arc of information technology and the current trajectory of the smart grid.  While cause and effect are debatable, the fact is that a lot of the people driving changes in the clean tech world have IT backgrounds. It may be true that to the man with a hammer, the entire world looks like a nail.

Disclosure: This is what we are trying to do at EcoFactor. We use the Internet to help consumers automatically manage their home energy use through a SaaS (software as a service) platform.  Our industry experience has given us a front-row seat for both the historical revolution in IT and the impending one in the smart grid, and we see some specific parallels between the two. We’re not alone, but many trends in clean tech really do look a lot like the IT revolution.

Trend #1: The Internet changes everything

Remember CompuServe? Prodigy? AOL? At the dawn of what became the Internet, their “walled gardens” defined the online experience for millions of users. Today, the idea that your service provider told you what you could do with your connection seems quaint.

We see a number of efforts now to fence in the smart grid — to define and limit what can be done and who can do it. But just as the World Wide Web made such finger-in-the-dyke efforts futile last time, the Internet ‘s furious pace of innovation will again overwhelm those kinds of defenses.

The smart grid will enable automated energy management, automated dynamic price response, and a host of innovations we can’t yet imagine. It will reward companies that find innovative ways of leveraging diverse data sources, devices and technologies. And if those applications aren’t welcomed inside the walled gardens, the applications will simply route around them.

Ironically, these Internet-based products won’t just benefit consumers, they will benefit utilities, energy retailers, and home service providers, too. Terabytes of new data will offer grid managers greatly increased visibility into demand — and not just yesterday’s, but tomorrow’s — all the way down to the individual home level.

Trend #2: Consumer value and ease-of-use will drive the market

At the beginning of the PC revolution, early adopters bought Osbornes and KayPros and Apple IIs because they were innovative and cool. But those users had to put up with awkward interfaces and the need for considerable effort and expertise to keep them running. As long as even basic word processing required a mastery of command line syntax, there could be no mainstream consumer adoption of PCs. Getting past that barrier required both improved technology and a shift in philosophy: market growth means insulating consumers from the bits and bytes. It also means offering new applications (like browsers) that effectively leverage the connected world.

Many consumer-facing smart grid offerings today are, in effect, all about the bits and bytes. Home energy dashboards and reporting tools ask customers to know, care about and pay attention to the details of their energy consumption, but provide no easy way for consumers to take action and benefit from them. DR solutions ask consumers to accept discomfort in order to address grid-level problems like peak demand.

Today, new solutions allow consumers to maintain complete control over the temperature in their homes and achieve significant cost savings without ever thinking about therms or kilowatt hours or setback schedules — from any device, or automatically, and with no device at all. Just as the iPod and iTunes let users focus on the music, the winning smart grid applications will let users focus on the results, not the process.

Trend #3: The entrance of big tech speeds market maturation

Most early PC makers — Kaypro, Osborne, Apple — were just PC makers. As long as it looked like a not-ready-for-prime-time niche market, the giants in adjacent industries stayed on the sidelines. Just as IBM’s entrance into the PC market took that industry to the next phase of its evolution, today’s IT giants like Microsoft, Google, and Cisco are indicating their own perception that the smart grid market is ready to sustain the behemoths. In a sense, they have brought us to the end of the beginning of the smart grid.

As with the PC revolution, the presence of these blue chip companies legitimizes the industry for potential customers, and that legitimacy benefits not just the blue chip players, but competitors large and small. That said, the fact that the grid gains from Google’s entrance does not necessarily mean that the opposite is also true.  Mainframe giant IBM could not translate that strength into long-term dominance of the PC market; there is no guarantee that the IT giants will dominate the smart grid. But their presence will almost certainly propel it forward.

What does it all mean?

The Internet, the growing importance of the user experience, and the entrance of large tech companies should all be seen as good omens for the future of the smart grid.  These trends will lead to better products and services, which will in turn drive consumer adoption. And consumer adoption will be the key to fulfilling the environmental and economic potential of the smart grid.

Test Drive of the week: Smart Fortwo

The car is a small, compact two-seater. It is easy to get into and feels spacious inside.
The interior is not really basic; it feels slightly luxurious. The upholstery was a nice patterned grey colour and the dashboard and side doors were also shades of grey.

The dashboard is very clean and easy to read. The GPS seems quite sophisticated and is inlaid, like a TV set.

It starts up just like a normal car. There are only three speeds: neutral, drive and reverse–very simple. You don’t have to press very hard to accelerate. The car will go from 0 to 30mph in 6.5 seconds, and has an electronically limited top speed of 60 mph. Of course, there is no sound when driving since it is electric.

It drives easily and responsively. We drove on a test track with lots of winding roads and a traffic-free straight away and it was a peppy, but not really speedy, ride.

It has a lithium battery which is included in the cost price and should last 8 to 10 years. It also has ESP, ABS brakes two airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners, and also features a NCAP tested tridion safety cell. It is air-conditioned which is a nice, although not that necessary, plus. The 30kW electric motor is built by Zytek Automotive, a UK technology company.

As the first step of its electric drive program, smart has been running 100 demonstration vehicles in the United Kingdom since 2007. The series production of the smart fortwo electric drive has now started with 1,000 vehicles, which will be run in both Europe- starting by the end of 2009- and the United States- starting in the second half of 2010 in several cities. The series production in large numbers will start for model year 2012 vehicles, which can be bought in all smart centers.

The smart fortwo electric drive will be equipped with a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery powering a 30 kW motor positioned over the rear drive wheels. The battery can be charged with either 100V or 220V systems and will require between 3.5 and 8 hours of charging time, depending on the voltage used and the starting state of the battery charge. An 85 mile range is anticipated.

for more info click here

Knoxville, TN Upgrades Infrastructure with Smart Grid Technology

Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), an electric, gas, water and wastewater service provider, will upgrade and enhance its existing network infrastructure with smart grid technology from Intergraph. With the Intergraph Smart Grid Operations Command-and-Control Center, KUB will consolidate and streamline network operations, leading to increased accuracy, efficiency and reliability.

The new smart grid solution will integrate Intergraph outage management system (OMS) and mobile workforce management (MWFM) technology with SCADA and alarm functionality to simplify the presentation of complex data and improve situational awareness for grid operators. It will be used to manage and control the electric distribution network, as well as dispatch work orders for the utility’s natural gas and water systems.

“As an existing user of Intergraph’s InService technology for outage and mobile workforce management, we had already experienced firsthand the efficiency benefits that can be achieved through the company’s geospatially-powered utilities solutions,” said Barry Jones, representative for KUB’s outage and mobile workforce system. “By upgrading to Intergraph’s InService 8.2, we will be adding smart grid functionality to our command-and-control infrastructure to more easily pinpoint problem areas on our network and remediate potential outages before they occur.”

In addition to integrating SCADA and alarm functionality into its grid, KUB will also work with Intergraph to develop a wall board display of its full electric distribution system that will dynamically depict outage information and additional network data. By incorporating all of these functions into a single user interface, KUB’s system operators will no longer have to rely on multiple displays to accomplish their tasks and keep the network up and running. The system will also prevent information overload during major storm situations.

“Intergraph is a leader in enabling utilities to quickly visualize the operational state of their networks, including abnormal device conditions and outage types and locations, and respond accordingly to eliminate outages and reduce outage time,” said Jay Stinson, vice president of Utilities & Communications at Intergraph. “By consolidating key grid functions into a single user interface, utilities like KUB can stay a step ahead of outages, work more efficiently and provide safer, more reliable service to customers.”

Further information can be found at Intergraph website and KUB website.

The other face of Smart Grid

The “smart” electric grid may be just a little too smart. Once a smart meter is attached to a home, it can gather a lot more data than just how much electricity a family uses.

It can tell how many people live in the house, when they get up, when they go to sleep and when they aren’t home.

It can tell how many showers they take and loads of laundry they do. How often they use the microwave. How much television they watch and what kind of TV they watch it on.

Almost 200,000 smart meters are now being installed between Fort Collins and Pueblo, and across the country 52 million smart meters will be installed by 2015, according to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimate.

“This is technology that can pierce the blinds,” said Elias Quinn, author of a smart grid privacy study for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

“Insufficient oversight could lead to an unprecedented invasion of consumer privacy,” Quinn warned in his report to the PUC.

Law enforcement, government agencies and corporations, such as Microsoft and Google, already are eyeing all that data.

The transformation of the electric grid into a smart, sophisticated two-way energy and communication system is seen as a way to better manage power and improve efficiency.

The federal government has put up $3.4 billion to help speed smart-grid development.

The technology, however, poses new questions for consumer and privacy advocates, state regulators and federal officials.

How do you protect the information? Who should have access, and what happens if it falls into the wrong hands?

“Privacy and cybersecurity are among the greatest challenges in implementing the smart grid,” said Nick Sinai, energy and environment director at the Federal Communications Commission.

Tackling privacy issues

Federal agencies and some states — including Colorado and California — are now moving to deal with privacy and security risks posed by the smart grid.

The Colorado PUC opened a docket in August to gather comments on whether the state rules governing privacy are sufficient.

The commission is reviewing the testimony to decide whether further action is necessary, said PUC spokesman Terry Bote.

New rules are needed, said Bill Levis, director of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel.

“The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable search,” Levis said. “. . . But I don’t think the founding fathers could ever have thought of this kind of stuff.”

Sinai said one lesson from the Internet is that it is cheaper and more effective to build in privacy and security protections at the start.

In the meantime, utilities continue to install smart meters. Xcel is installing 23,000 smart meters in Boulder as part of its SmartGridCity pilot, according to company officials.

By the end of this year, all 96,000 Colorado homes and businesses served by Black Hills Energy will have smart meters, with the help of a $6.1 million federal grant.

Fort Collins has plans to install 79,000 smart meters with the help of $18.1 million in federal funds.

Colorado utilities, executives say, have been collecting and protecting customer data for years.

“The level of data we receive with the smart grid may change, but the privacy principle remains very much the same — specific data stays between us and the customer,” said Megan Hertzler, director of data privacy for Xcel Energy.

Still, Xcel is “getting a lot more requests for customer usage information now that it is seen as more desirable,” Hertzler said.

Most of the inquiries are from companies that want the information for marketing. Xcel has not released any of the data, executives said, and declined to name the companies making the requests.

The key differences between the meter on the side of most houses now and the smart meter deal with time and communication.

Meters are currently read once a month; smart meters take readings every 15 minutes. Future models may take readings every six to eight seconds.

And all that information doesn’t wait for a meter reader. It is instantaneously communicated to the utility by fiber-optic cable, broadband or Wi-Fi.

Mitsubishi plugs in smart grid project

Mitsubishi Electric on Monday said it will invest about $76 million in a smart-grid project, part of a companywide push into equipment for modernizing the electricity grid.

The company will create two installations–a residential-size building and a commercial facility–which will have on-site power generation through photovoltaic panels and local energy storage with rechargeable batteries. The flow of energy will be managed and optimized by power electronics and smart meters to test the performance of the equipment.

Mitsubishi Electric said the projects are part of a corporatewide push to supply smart-grid technologies for the electric power industry and meet global demand for low-carbon energy.

In one experiment, Mitsubishi Electric will set up a mini-power station built around a four-megawatt solar array. It will include equipment, such as switches and smart meters, to manage the flow of energy and a battery.

The residential-scale system will feature a 200-kilowatt photovoltaic array with a home energy-management system, which uses a smart meter and network-connected appliances.

The home system recalls work being done by Panasonic in this area. The industrial giant is developing a line of energy systems for the home, including energy-efficient TVs and appliances, solar panels, batteries, fuel-cell hot water heating systems, and a home energy-management dashboard.

Samsung, another company well known for its electronics, last week announced that it plans to invest $20 billionin energy and health care over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, an executive from battery supplier BYD said last month that the company plans to supply a combination of equipment, including solar panels and batteries, to homeowners.

Data collected from these various research sites will be used to develop new products and architectures that could enhance the performance of existing Smart Grid technologies. Mitsubishi is placing particular emphasis on the photovoltaic segment of its business. It has identified China, India, North America and Southeast Asia as regions to target.

Several major Japanese corporations have taken a greater interest in the Smart Grid recently, including Toshiba (which landed a relevant partnership with SunPower in early March), Zhimizu and Kyocera. And South Korean giant Samsung also just announced that it will sink $20.6 billion into green technologies, with a special focus on solar.

But Smart Grid efforts aren’t only heating up in Asia. At the end of last month, General Electric joined forces with Nissan to research the impact electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles may have on national electric grids — and how predicted grid overload crises may be averted. Other U.S. corporations like Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel and Microsoft have also been vocal about offering Smart Grid products to utilities and homeowners alike.

However, with consumer-friendly plug-in cars like Nissan’s Leaf and General Motors’ Chevy Volt preparing to launch as early as this year, it seems like Smart Grid solutions to major challenges are needed now — not in several years.

Some analysts say that less than 10 electric cars on the same block could cause power outages. If this is true, Mitsubishi, General Electric, and the rest will need to race electric vehicle market adoption to make sure the grid can handle the next generation of transportation. This sounds dicier than it should be.

World’s leading provider of 4G now into Smart Grid

The world’s leading provider of 4G WiMAX and wireless broadband solutions, is showcasing its best-of-breed award-winning 4G WiMAX infrastructure and optimized smart grid connectivity solutions at UTC Telecom 2010 May 23 — 26 in Indianapolis. Alvarion will highlight its market leading 4G WiMAX technology which ensures low latency, QoS, scalable, real-time and secure broadband communication for mission critical grid devices.

Alvarion Smart Grid Session: Alvarion’s Eedo Liftshitz, director business development, will be part of a session discussing “4G WiMAX for the smart grid — why WiMAX?” being moderated by Monica Paolina, from Senza Fili. This session will take place on Monday, May 24 from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. in Room 108 and will focus on the smart grid solution implementation, specifically addressing wireless architecture, communications infrastructure and end-to-end system integration. The panel will also include vendor experts on smart meters, distribution automation, smart meter aggregation and end-to-end system integration to provide the perspective of the entire ecosystem.

Alvarion will also participate in a panel discussion on Tuesday, May 25 from 3:00 — 4:15 p.m. in room 104 titled “4G emerging technologies — what’s right for you? – Part 2.” This panel discussion, hosted by Ashish Sharma, vice president of marketing for Alvarion, will provide an opportunity to ask questions about the next generation technologies from equipment manufacturers, carriers and utilities.

Alvarion’s broad portfolio of wireless solutions is ideally suited to build the next generation smart grid infrastructure. The industry leading portfolio includes WiMAX products for licensed, license-exempt, and 3.65 GHz quasi-licensed frequencies, point-to-point and point-to-multipoint license-exempt broadband wireless products, license-exempt backhaul products and a variety of end user devices for fixed and mobile services. Alvarion’s all IP solutions provide advanced features such as low latency, enhanced coverage and capacity, enhanced security based on standardized WiMAX protocol and quality of service. Because of the all IP nature, these solutions can be easily scaled and result in a very quick network rollout.

“Our all-IP end-to-end 4G WiMAX and wireless broadband portfolio for smart grid connectivity exemplifies innovation and leadership in this growing market,” said Ashish Sharma. “As the utilities look to create their smart grid architecture, our field proven solution based on the latest 4G technology will provide them with an optimal business case.”

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