In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, journalist Joel Achenbach noted that the public by and large don’t think about how electricity actually gets to their home and works. “We’ve just become so accustomed to the electric power grid — it’s like oxygen. But we can’t take it for granted. Things go wrong, and suddenly 50 million people are without power, and then they notice the grid and they learn about the system behind the magic.”
Achenbach says blackouts and brownouts cost Americans an estimated $80 billion a year and the current grid will remain vulnerable unless upgrades are made, such as the $18 million project undertaken by ISO New England to install smart-grid devices that measure electricity performances and more quickly detect problems on the system.
An $8 million United States Department of Energy ’s grant will cover half of the expenses for the new system which is expected to break ground later this summer. Vamsi Chadalavada, senior vice president and chief operating officer for ISO New England, says the funding “will speed both innovation and integration of smart grid developments in our region. The DOE grant will enable this smart grid project to be completed at a lower cost to New England and allow the region to realize the benefits of smart grid technology sooner.”
Data received from the grid’s status currently occurs once every four seconds; with the new smart grid technology it will increase to 30 times per second. The Holyoke-based ISO serves all six New England states as the region’s bulk electric power generator and transmission system.