The first comprehensive and large scale smart grid is now operating. The $800 million project, built in Florida, has made power outages shorter and less frequent, and helped some customers save money, according to the utility that operates it.
Smart grids should be far more resilient than conventional grids, which is important for surviving storms, and make it easier to install more intermittent sources of energy like solar power (see “China Tests a Small Smart Electric Grid” and “On the Smart Grid, a Watt Saved Is a Watt Earned”). The Recovery Act of 2009 gave a vital boost to the development of smart grid technology, and the Florida grid was built with $200 million from the U.S. Department of Energy made available through the Recovery Act.
Dozens of utilities are building smart grids—or at least installing some smart grid components, but no one had put together all of the pieces at a large scale. Florida Power & Light’s project incorporates a wide variety of devices for monitoring and controlling every aspect of the grid, not just, say, smart meters in people’s homes.