Federal funding delivers $3.4 billion for a smart-energy grid

energygov3The Obama Administration has announced $3.4 billion in funding, under the federal stimulus act, to upgrade the U.S. electrical grid. Touted as the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, this investment is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs, save energy and help consumers cut their electric bills. It’s also expected to jumpstart the U.S. goal to obtain 20 percent or more of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The $3.4 billion in grant awards are part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and will be matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth over $8 billion. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Investment Grant Program will be used to install more than 850 sensors or phasor measurement units across 100 percent of the U.S. electric grid, 200,000 smart transformers, nearly 700 automated substations, more than 1 million in-home displays, 170,000 smart thermostats, and 175,000 other load control devices to enable consumers to reduce their energy use.

Funding will also help expand the market for smart washers, dryers, and dishwashers.

Investments totaling $400 million are aimed at making electricity distribution and transmission more efficient. The Administration is funding several grid modernization projects across the country that will significantly reduce the amount of power that is wasted from the time it is produced at a power plant to the time it gets to your house.

By deploying digital monitoring devices and increasing grid automation, these awards will increase the efficiency, reliability and security of the system, and will help link up renewable energy resources with the electric grid, according to the DOE.

The Administration is also funding a range of projects, totaling $2 billion, that will incorporate various smart-grid components into one system or cut across various project areas including smart meters, smart thermostats and appliances, syncrophasors, automated substations, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and renewable energy sources.

Funding of $25 million will be spent on building a smart-grid manufacturing industry to help expand the manufacturing base of companies that can produce the smart meters, smart appliances, synchrophasors, smart transformers, and other components for smart-grid systems in the United States and around the world.

One-hundred private companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners received the Smart Grid Investment Grant awards. Here is a complete listing of the grant awards by category and state.

In the electronics sector, both Whirlpool and Intellon have been selected to receive federal smart-grid stimulus funds.

As part of the DOE’s Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, Whirlpool Corp. (Benton Harbor, Mich.) will receive a grant of $19.3 million over a two-year period, which Whirlpool will match with its own investments, to help the company accelerate its development of smart appliances that can connect with the smart grid.

The appliance maker recently announced that in 2011 it would deliver one million U.S. manufactured smart dryers capable of reacting intelligently to signals from the smart grid by modifying their energy consumption to save consumers money on their home electric bills. In markets where utilities offer variable or time-of-use pricing, these dryers could save a typical consumer $20 to $40 per year, while also benefiting the environment.

In addition, the funds will complement the company’s commitment that by 2015 all of the electronically controlled appliances it produces globally will be capable of receiving and responding to signals from the smart grid.

Intellon Corp., a leading provider of HomePlug-compatible integrated circuits (ICs) for home networking, networked entertainment, Ethernet-over-Coax (EoC) and smart-grid applications, has announced that its proposal to modify existing power line communications ICs to enhance smart grid functionality has been selected for award negotiations by the DOE.

If the award negotiations with the DOE are successful, Intellon will receive $4.9 million of U.S. Recovery Act funding for the project. The Orlando, Fla.-based IC maker will contribute an additional $4.9 million in matching funds for a total investment of $9.8 million.

The new IC will be based on the “Green PHY” powerline communications specification that is expected to be finalized by the HomePlug Powerline Alliance later this year. The HomePlug “Green PHY” specification modifies the industry-leading HomePlug AV powerline technology to create a lower data rate, lower power and lower cost smart grid solution.

The new ICs will communicate across existing electrical wiring in the home (120/240 VAC, or 24 VAC low voltage wiring to thermostats), enabling smart meters, energy usage display monitors, programmable communicating thermostats, smart appliances and other electrically powered equipment to transmit usage data and receive control signals.