The US’s Smart Power Grid

Not too long ago, President Obama announced that he’d be putting billions of dollars into a ‘smart power grid’ for America.

He makes an analogy to Eisenhower’s investment in the US interstate highway system;
upgrading the power grid to be smarter and more efficient would really help improve the infrastructure of the country.

This news has gained some steam in the last few months, because of recent technological advances in wi-fi. Mainly that there is now technology that can send a wi-fi signal over 45 miles. It’s the kind of signal that doesn’t send a lot of information (about 50 bits per second, compared to the national consumer average of several megabits per second), but something like a smart power grid wouldn’t have to stream videos like the average user. It would have to send important diagnostic information, or statistics. Something like that would take roughly 50 bits per second. Oh wait a second.

Plus, with recent advances in renewable energy (some of which don’t provide a super consistent supply–what if it’s not windy?) it’s important for our power plants to be able to communicate with the rest of the grid.

Here’s an interesting article, which seems to take a bit of a negative spin, about Obama’s smart grid initiative. But it does mention that Google might be getting involved. Which probably means cool stuff.

So what’s this mean for you?

This is a massive project (seen how big America is?) and it’s going to take a long time to implement if it gets off the ground. That means that we won’t see a truly smart grid until about 10 years from now–maybe more. Hey, that’s about the time you’ll be getting out of college, isn’t it?

A project like this means one thing: jobs. Lots of them:

  • They’ll need electrical engineers to design the components which actually make the grid ‘smart,’ and make it communicate wirelessly.
  • A power grid communicating wirelessly could be hacked, and would need network security specialists and computer engineers to keep it secure.
  • Furthermore, wireless communication limited to 50 bits per second would need to be efficient. They’ll need data communications specialists (read: programmers) to make it work well.
  • And what about functionality? A smart grid that can’t do anything is like a genius who drops out of school–it’s just a waste unless you make something out of it. Even more software engineers needed here.
  • Infrastructure revamping on this scale requires a ton of engineers to design it, a ton of engineers to find a way to transition from old to new, and even more engineers to actually do it.
  • What about the architects, designers and civil engineers who figure out how to squeeze this all into a city?

Think of more. If this project gets going this is likely to be a pretty good, long-term job. If Google is getting involved–and they’d be wanted because Google is known for making really fast infrastructures, just for fun–that means it might be a privatized job. Which typically means really high pay. High pay is good, right? Yeah, I think so.


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