The Department of Energy on Tuesday awarded $620 million in smart grid projects, the second major wave of government-led funding to modernize the electricity grid.
The money will come from the stimulus package and be matched by commercial companies, making the total spending $1.6 billion spread across 32 demonstration projects in 21 states. A total of $8.1 billion in smart-grid spending from public and private sources was announced late last month.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the awards at Ohio-based utility AEP, whose GridSmart program is considered one of the more technically advanced.
The bulk of the DOE awards--$435 million--will be aimed at adding communications to the transmission and distribution grid through the installation of two-way meters, sensors on the transmission lines, and in-home energy displays.
By networking devices along the grid and adding digital controls, utilities can more easily locate and fix outages and use their energy supply more efficiently. For consumers, in-home displays will allow them to get a real-time readout of their electricity usage to help ways to cut down consumption. Some utilities also offer programs where consumers can get cheaper rates to shave power use during peak times.
The rest of the DOE funding will go toward testing a range of energy storage technologies, including flow batteries, flywheels, and compressed air storage. With storage, utilities can more easily use solar and wind power by better managing the flow of energy on the grid.