Smart Grid Gets Trial Run in Maui

Wailea Bay Beach Photo

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Hoping to reduce fossil fuel dependence in one of the most dependent US states, Hawaii, General Electric Co is now testing out Smart Grid technology in Wailea, a luxury resort community. By timing electronics better and adding a mix of solar and wind power, GE is hoping to reduce energy consumption 15% by 2012, reports the Associated Press. This smart grid is more than just a network of transmission lines moving electricity generated by solar and wind into places where people need it. The system also involves switching out electric meters in homes and businesses with, well, smarter ones. The new meters are able to tell which appliances are running and when, and then switch them off during peak electricity (and costly) times when demand for energy is higher. The program will also upgrade the utility's computers to better integrate renewable energy technologies.

Wailea is not the first smart grid technology to be piloted. In fact, there are over 70 programs currently running across the United States. The programs allow homeowners to turn thermostats down when demand is high, or to delay running laundry or dishwashers until after demand drops. The program costs roughly $14.5 million USD and is paid partly by the US Department of Energy and partly by GE and Hawaiian Electric. Currently Hawaii imports roughly 90% of their fuel and yet has no lack of sun, wind or geothermal. A smart grid system would help to moderate some of the fluctuations between cloudy days, etc and allow for the system to take in more renewable energy easily.

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