smart grid

University of Washington

It’s often said that the best way to reduce our carbon emissions is through energy conservation. One way to do that more effectively is by using computer technology to make the electric grid more intelligent.  

It’s known as smart grid technology and for the past two years, the U.S. Department of Energy has been spending $178 million to test it in five Northwest states.

One of the biggest demonstration projects is on the campus of the University of Washington where knowledge of when power is used is saving big money.

courtesy PNNL

When you turn on your tap or shower in the morning or run your washing machine at night, you probably aren’t thinking much about how many other people in the area are doing the same thing.

But when it’s cold outside, use of electric heaters for hot water often pushes peak loads to the brink for local utilities.

That’s where so-called smart-grid technology could come in and save the day. The idea, which increases energy efficiency and saves everyone money, is being put to the test on Fox Island, near Tacoma.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Most people who pay their own energy bills know that power is expensive. But where it’s coming from and how much it costs is often more mysterious.

That could change if technology that’s part of a demonstration project at the University of Washington catches on. It’s co funded by the US Department of Energy. The U-dub is the largest of 16 demo sites creating a new Pacific Northwest Smart Grid.