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The Smart Grid Has Arrived

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the will-soon-have-its-own-app-store dept.

Power 121

SternisheFan sends this excerpt from MIT's Technology Review: "The first comprehensive and large scale smart grid is now operating. The $800 million project, built in Florida, has made power outages shorter and less frequent, and helped some customers save money, according to the utility that operates it. ... Dozens of utilities are building smart grids — or at least installing some smart grid components, but no one had put together all of the pieces at a large scale. Florida Power & Light's project incorporates a wide variety of devices for monitoring and controlling every aspect of the grid, not just, say, smart meters in people's homes. ... Many utilities are installing smart meters — Pacific Gas & Electric in California has installed twice as many as FPL, for example. But while these are important, the flexibility and resilience that the smart grid promises depends on networking those together with thousands of sensors at key points in the grid — substations, transformers, local distribution lines, and high voltage transmission lines. (A project in Houston is similar in scope, but involves half as many customers, and covers somewhat less of the grid.) In FPL's system, devices at all of these places are networked — data jumps from device to device until it reaches a router that sends it back to the utility — and that makes it possible to sense problems before they cause an outage, and to limit the extent and duration of outages that still occur. The project involved 4.5 million smart meters and over 10,000 other devices on the grid."

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Advertising publicity stunt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43619735)

This really isn't anything new, just a bunch of hype.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (4, Informative)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620305)

Not really. The article just missed the real reason. Lightning strikes. Florida power reliability is horrible because of the huge number of electrical storms and lightning strikes to the system. This will facilitate "routing around" strikes and bringing up portions of the grid faster. Of course, blaming mother nature isn't as politically popular as blaming piggish customers.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620385)

Don't forget hurricanes!

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (4, Informative)

Dr. Zim (21278) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620535)

As often as hurricanes make the news in Florida, over the last 10 years, they've caused me to lose power twice, each time lasting maybe a day. Lightning takes out the power at least 10 times a year, usually lasting 15 minutes to an hour. The latter is easily handled by a UPS.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621135)

Hurricanes don't blame their customers.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620475)

My only issue is comparing a newly built system and saying it's more reliable and more efficient when compared to our, on average, quite old infrastructure systems isn't exactly a solid comparison to say it's 'better'. I didn't RTFA so perhaps that's been factored in but it doesn't appear so at a quick glance.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620705)

When I last lived in Florida about ten years ago, the power infrastructure sucked. There were frequent outages and problems from even light weather conditions, and sometimes even when the weather was nice. The infrastructure in the local area I lived in was quite new though, less than ten years old considering how fast the area was developed and expanded. I'm not sure if you would consider 20 years old at this point for some of the basic infrastructure like power lines, etc. But I had gotten used to the idea that power would go out at least once a week in the summer. When I moved out west, there were virtually no power outages in what was an area with mostly 50-100 year old homes (no idea on how old the infrastructure was). When there finally was a power outage due to a squirrel getting into a transformer, that only lasted a couple minutes, the place I worked almost panicked and had to go through all sorts of checks on some of the industrial equipment to see if anything didn't start back up properly because that happened so rarely.

tl;dr: I'm not sure how much age has to do with it in many areas, but for what it is worth, a lot of the Florida infrastructure was pretty new not too long ago and still sucked at the time.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621033)

I grew up in western NY in the 70s/80s. I can't for the life of me remember any outages of the frequency and duration that seem to occur nationwide today. I'm in the DC area now and the DC and MD side goes out with regularity, VA not quite as much - and the NOVEC COOP I'm currently under even less frequently than overall VA service.

My impression is there are significantly more frequent and severe outages in the last couple decades than the two before.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621183)

I grew up in western NY in the 70s/80s. I can't for the life of me remember any outages of the frequency and duration that seem to occur nationwide today.

Nationwide? There hasn't even been a multi-state outage since 2003, and you have to look pretty far before that to find another of similar size. Just so you know, when the lights go off at your house, the rest of us are fine.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621481)

'nationwide' as in outages occur in every state but not all at the same time...

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621511)

Hint...power prices became deregulated.

Power companies have figured out they can make more money by turning off some power generation for "maintenance", resulting in much higher prices for the power they are generating.

Re:Advertising publicity stunt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621595)

I've moved a few times between the east coast and the west coast in the last dozen years. The DC area and Florida were two of the east coast places, and those both had horrible power issues. The west coast and central NY area I've also lived at, and those seemed pretty solid, even in recent years for the west coast. I think regional location has a lot more to do with reliability than changes over time.

The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43619741)

The Smart Grid Has Arrived

But the "dumb grid" remains and is so entrenched that it will take generations or two to finally get rid of it. The up side is that when the last remnants of the "dumb grid" are replaced they'll be replaced by whatever is replacing the aged and out-of-date "smart grid".

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43619925)

But the "dumb grid" remains and is so entrenched that it will take generations or two to finally get rid of it.

And how long, exactly, did it take the 'dumb grid' to be built? How long do you expect it to take to change something as ridiculously large and complex as the US power grid?

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620031)

And how long, exactly, did it take the 'dumb grid' to be built? How long do you expect it to take to change something as ridiculously large and complex as the US power grid?

Since all the utility companies are private entities they all can and should start independently. This is not a situation that one company has to wait for another company to finish before they begin. The real question is "How long do you expect it to take to change something as small as each company's power grid?"

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620485)

Since all the utility companies are private entities they all can and should start independently.

Heavily regulated. Regulations take time to change and update.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620069)

While Smart Grid is considered a "complete" system the main feature of fault detection is considered the driving factor...Implemented incrementally it doesn't take a massive effort to overhaul the whole system while getting the largest benefit.

Currently over most of the US grid there are detection processes in place, howerver they only know "where" a fault occured on a line, not what caused it (which is massive).

I'm impressed with the early load management too, if the grid senses a large load in one area it'll automatically start extra turbines at a generation plant to handle it.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (2)

oneiros27 (46144) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620005)

I was at a meeting a year or two ago, and I think it was someone from NIST who gave a report on the status of 'smart meters'. I want to say it was a meeting to discuss how a community of practice should self-organize, and we had some reports on how different groups negotiated standards (IETF, W3C, etc.)

If I remember correctly, there were two or more different protocols for smart meters that had been proposed, and in the process of negotiating the differences made some sort of requirement that the meters had to be able to be upgraded by flashing 'em.

So ... in theory, they'll be upgradable, and won't need to be replaced. Unfortunately, odds are, there will be a limited amount of storage to upgrade 'em, so they probably can't be flashed forever. And they never discussed security protocols, so if someone hack their meter (or someone else's).

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

dpilot (134227) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620561)

So now they're flashable, most likely remote-flashable.

New attack vector - flash all of the meters into bricks.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620951)

The traditional method of stealing power, tapping cables, gets caught when the company notices the power going into the street is greater than the sum of meter readings. Simply hacking your meter to under-report consumption would give the same result.

But hacking others on the same circuit too... that could work. For ever KWH you knock off your bill, add 1/10th of a KWH to ten of your neighbors. But you'd have to keep it balanced in real time, which makes it trickier again, the savings aren't worh it. It's the type of fraud a person would carry out only to prove it can be done.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (2)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621505)

Um, no. Power in is measured at the substation level and can't possibly catch an individual stealing 10's of kilowatts. Likewise, temperature variations change the efficiency of cables and transformers. Most often power thievery is caught by a jealous neighbor turning someone in.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (2)

hamjudo (64140) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622311)

Stealing power takes a certain level of knowledge and attention to detail. Quite a few power thieves manage to send themselves to the emergency room or morgue each year. This is far more common in regions where the theft rate is so high that the power companies install the brains of the meters on the pole transformers. They just put a remote display on the residence.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (0)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620075)

Given the 'smart grid' is just a way for power companies to charge you more for doing less, I'll keep my 'dumb grid', thanks.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (2)

DamonHD (794830) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620851)

The sour cynical answer is always the right one, of course. Except when it isn't.

Rgds

Damon

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620891)

Given the 'smart grid' is just a way for power companies to charge you more for doing less,

No, they charge you more for being dumb and less for being smart. Smart metering allows pricing to be adjusted by demand, so if you time shift your electricity consumption, you can save money. I have a smart meter, and I save by using the delay feature on my dishwasher. We only run the clothes dryer late at night. Soon you will be able to buy refrigerators and freezers that pre-chill with cheap overnight electricity (commercial units already do this).

I'll keep my 'dumb grid', thanks.

If you are dumb (or lazy), that is a good idea. Where I live (San Jose, CA) it is your choice. You can continue to pay a flat rate, or you can choose to switch to the demand adjusted rate. The latter only makes sense if you are willing to adjust your consumption pattern, or if you already use a lot of late night electricity. I work at home and tend to be a night owl, so it works well for me.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (0)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622297)

No, they charge you more for being dumb and less for being smart. Smart metering allows pricing to be adjusted by demand, so if you time shift your electricity consumption, you can save money.

Exactly my point.

Today I can run any electrical device any time I want. In the glorious new 'smart meter' future I'll be paying more unless I run it when _THEY_ want.

Certain people seem to think that putting their own devices in the control of a third party is a good idea. Personally, I'd rather just buy a generator like the rest of the third world with unreliable power supplies.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43623087)

In my experience, you don't pay more for running when they don't want, you end up instead paying less for when they do want you to. You could argue that they will then increase the prices so that those that run stuff off-peak pay the same and those that run at bad times pay the same... but then the people with dumb meters will end up getting higher rates too. Either way, the dumb meter loses out for most typical use cases.

You seem to be arguing this is about needing control. Well, in the real world flexibility and getting things on your own time schedule costs more. These setups allow people who don't need that to not pay for what they don't need. But they still have the option of doing what they want, when they want. You might as well complain that all shipping should be next day shipping, otherwise some people are subject to getting their packages on a schedule the shipping company wants, and those that want it when they want it need to pay more.

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620947)

When I got the ability to save money by running things during off-peak hours and to let the air conditioning be turned off during brownout conditions (which have yet to come up in couple years since it was installed, but I get a discount for having the box installed), my electricity bill decreased by about 20-30%. ymmv

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

hughbar (579555) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622131)

Yes I agree, we're heading for asymmetric demand pricing [something I just made up] like the airlines and railways, it's expensive at the moment you need it, but the base costs remain constant. It's called automated blackmail or increasing shareholder value [in Europe, most of the utilities are privatised]. Also there's cash to be made on speculative option and contract purchase using the big data leeched out of the grid.

Am I being cynical? No, just reflecting the values of late stage capitalism...

Security ??? WHAT Security ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620963)

The obvious weak point in the "smart" grid are the so-called "Smart" Meters. Which apparently aren't all that smart [theregister.co.uk] , are already being hacked [naturalnews.com] , and tools for hacking them [zdnet.com] are readily available. It seems probable, even almost certain, that someone will use the authentication in the meters to hack into the grid itself. And from there, much mayhem, either intentional or unintentional (anyone remember the Morris Worm [wikipedia.org] ?? ) I'd pass, but, of course, my utility didn't care, they installed one anyway, over both my objection and my HOA's objection. And, gee, ever since the "money-saving Smart Meter" was installed, my electricity bill has skyrocketed. . .

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621163)

What's your point, Grumpy McNegative? "The lesson is: never try."

Re:The Smart Grid Has Arrived (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year and a half ago | (#43623137)

But the "dumb grid" remains and is so entrenched that it will take generations or two to finally get rid of it.

I can only hope so that it will take so long. They've switched to a "smart grid" here in Ontario, and all you ever see is increasing hydro prices. 3% two years ago, 3% last year, 3% this year, yep right on track to have the most expensive electricity in North America by 2016. This is helped along by the "green energy act" here where we're paying 40-80c/kwh for solar and wind.

First? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#43619769)

OG&E in Oklahoma has had theirs done for well over 6 months. They have 3/4 of a million customers. That sounds plenty large to me.

Re:First? (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620063)

I'm not sure I'd class this as a true smart grid anyway. Smart grids store energy in batteries, there is lots of local generation feeding in to it, and appliances are connected so they can manage their energy use for maximum cost saving / efficiency.

Re:First? (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620513)

Smart grids store energy in batteries

I don't know that that's a fair statement. Smart would seem to imply the ability to adjust to changing demands. Such as slowing down AC when a brownout might be imminent. It doesn't have to have energy storage to be 'smart'. Wouldn't hurt, but I don't know that that's what the 'smart' is meant to mean.

Re:First? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621541)

As the summary mentions we have had individual parts like the ability to slow down AC at periods of high demand for a while, and this is supposed to be the first time many such measures have been brought together. My point is that without small scale generation and storage it is far from what complete smart grids will look like in the near future when they are more common.

Re:First? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620081)

There was also Xcel's SmartGridCity in Boulder a few years ago.

Re:First? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620207)

Italian power company ENEL is operating its Telegestore network of over 30 million smart meters (i.e. virtually every italian customer) since 2006.

Not Holding my breath... (1)

rueger (210566) | about a year and a half ago | (#43619807)

" and helped some customers save money, according to the utility that operates it. "

I'll believe that when I can see an actual measurable decrease in my power bills. I'm only slightly less skeptical of utility companies than I am of politicians and cel providers.

Re:Not Holding my breath... (2)

Chameleon Man (1304729) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622283)

As someone who works at a power company, you are correct in your skepticism (mostly). The decrease on your bill will come when you choose to run appliances like your washer/dryer on off-peak hours. This is similar to phone plans advertising free nights and weekends. They are trying to develop the habit in the consumer to use electricity when it's least desired so that electric generation can stay consistent.

If you maintain your typical habits, then yes, you power bill will potentially increase. My company has yet to communicate whether an increase will happen during peak hours, but I think it's safe to assume it will. Some people believe the onus of having a chargeback model like this is a step backwards in technology.

Really? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43619819)

"The $800 million project, built in Florida, has made power outages shorter and less frequent."

Can someone help me, I'm from old Europe, what's a 'power outage'?

Re:Really? (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#43619909)

Once upon a time, power utilities ran their lines overhead. One result of this is that trees falling in storms and other similar events would disrupt power. Thankfully, this construction technique has been abandoned in all but a few third world countries.

Re:Really? (3, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#43619973)

Except for the USA where they are still highly common because it is cheaper to stick wires on poles.

Re:Really? (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620067)

Not only that...It seems copper thieves don't mind digging for copper [nj.com] but climbing for it is less palatable.

Re:Really? (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622619)

It's also 1000 times easier to repair them when they break, which is far less often than they break when they are underground.

Re:Really? (2)

Andreas Mayer (1486091) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620011)

Once upon a time, power utilities ran their lines overhead. One result of this is that trees falling in storms and other similar events would disrupt power. Thankfully, this construction technique has been abandoned in all but a few third world countries.

I wouldn't exactly call Japan a third world country ...
(Just search for "Japan Power Lines".)

Re:Really? (1)

PTBarnum (233319) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620039)

One upon a time, power utilies ran their lines underground. One result of this is that idiots in backhoes and other similar events would disrupt power.

Underground lines may be less vulnerable to disruption, but they are not immune. Plus, I don't think very many countries have their high voltage distribution lines underground for long distances.

I'm not sure how the "smart grid" is supposed to reduce power outages; most outages are caused by the last mile medium and low voltage systems, and I don't think that has enough redundancy to route around damage. Maybe they can use the smart grid to pinpoint damage more accurately? I suppose the TFA probably explains that, but this is slashdot so I didn't read it.

Re:Really? (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620393)

Maybe they can use the smart grid to pinpoint damage more accurately?

My joking about overhead lines aside, this is precisely the goal. Of course, this assumes that the rest of the utilities' record keeping and event reporting infrastructure isn't hosed.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43622457)

Trust me if the system that your power company uses to monitor this sort of stuff is hosed your little lack of power is not a concern for them at the moment. I work in this industry specifically on implementing software for monitoring the health of those systems, redundancy, and automatic fail over needed to prevent such a thing. If the system that would be alarming a power failure in your neighborhood fails it is the same system that would be alarming a failure with a generator of high voltage power line, or some other more important piece of infrastructure. Granted these various alarms would be going to different screens for different operators. The machines that would have had to fail for alarming to completely fail would be a major crisis as they don't just loose power since they have very large UPSes (redundant) as well as backup generators for their large fortified building that house the control centers which are often redundant as well just in case of a smoking hole in the ground event.

Posting anonymous because I work with this.

Re:Really? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621459)

One upon a time, power utilies ran their lines underground. One result of this is that idiots in backhoes and other similar events would disrupt power.

If a tree knocks down a power line, that is an act of God, and you can't sue God. But there is a national database of buried cables and pipelines. So if a backhoe operator breaks one, it is almost certainly his fault. After paying a few ten thousand dollar fines, he will either stop being stupid or switch to a different line of work. As a result of this self-correcting feature, buried cables are a lot more reliable than overhead cables.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43622275)

If a tree knocks down a power line, that is an act of God, and you can't sue God.

Which is a shame since a lot of the time some simple maintenance on the trees would prevent the issue. I've lost track of the number of houses in my area lost power due to a branch falling on a power line, which is no surprise since the tree branches are allowed to grow through the spaces in power lines and over top of them. But in the same time period of several years, I've only once seen a whole tree take out the power lines in a way that reasonable trimming would not have prevented, and that involved an exceptional storm that broke some 100 year old records for daily rainfall and had unusually high winds.

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620127)

NYC had major power outages after Sandy. Was it because of all the wires on poles? Nope, it was because the utilities were underground, where it turns out they are vulnerable to floods. Who knew?

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620467)

Just because NYC implemented underground cables poorly doesn't mean that underground cables is inherently a bad idea.

Re:Really? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621735)

NYC had major power outages after Sandy. Was it because of all the wires on poles? Nope, it was because the utilities were underground, where it turns out they are vulnerable to floods. Who knew?

Flip that around. NYC doesn't have major power outages a dozen times per year from snow and ice breaking the overhead power lines, tree branches, etc. Instead, every few decades, they lose power because of a flood. Most sane people will gladly take that over the alternative. :-)

Re:Really? (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622147)

Once upon a time, running power lines overhead was the accepted way because electrical power was new and progress was driven by the early adopters. However, in barbaric areas where electrical power did not arrive until the 20th century, or due to repeated wars the infrastructure had to be rebuilt, underground lines are more common.

Re:Really? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620119)

in florida there are these things called hurricanes and thunderstorms. like the ones where the lightning hits the ground.
hurricanes have winds up to 175 miles per hour for a day at a time

Re:Really? (5, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620331)

Can someone help me, I'm from old Europe, what's a 'power outage'?

This should refresh your memory [usatoday.com] .Or this [ukpowernetworks.co.uk] . Or this [ubalert.com] . Or, this [bloomberg.com] .

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620927)

Or this [bbc.co.uk] . "Power failed first in Cologne, Germany, before shutting down across parts of France, Italy, Spain and Austria. Belgium, the Netherlands and Croatia were also affected."

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620493)

If he's from Eastern Europe, then he's quite familiar with the word 'outage' and it's clearly the word 'power' that has him confused.

The Chinese PLA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43619847)

approves of this upgrade and already has all the passwords and access.

Re:The Chinese PLA (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#43619931)

What about the Chinese ABS?

SOUNDS good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43619857)

Let's wait and see what ELSE they start to use those smart meters for.

Re:SOUNDS good. (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620177)

No need to wait. Several companies have already rolled out incentive packages that offer free electricity [txu.com] between certain hours. They couldn't do that without smart meters.

Re:SOUNDS good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620533)

Although there are still "Base" and "Delivery" charges for all usage, a battery bank -- charged up for free overnight -- could still pay for itself. And you'd have built-in protection against power outages.

And ever node... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43619907)

And every node has electronics made in China complete with a well hidden back door for the PLA to remotely control it :)

3 outages in 55 years (1)

foobsr (693224) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620025)

I indeed have difficulties in getting a grasp of how brownouts can be a problem and how you need a smart grid to prevent power outages.

I only remember three outages, the most severe caused by a remarkable flood ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sea_flood_of_1962 [wikipedia.org] ), the other two by a lightning striking into a transformer station.

CC.

Re:3 outages in 55 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620109)

You've only had to reset your oven clock 3 times? I'm sure I've done it at least 3 times in the last year.

Re:3 outages in 55 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620213)

In WA, I've been without power for 11 days in the past 5 years. Outages occur 2-3 times per year for 4-10 hours, with extended outages coming with every "major" storm. I am always amazed how fragile our infrastructure is. The T'rists don't need to get a dirty bomb or martyr themselves to cripple our society...just get a chainsaw and chop down a few key power runs.

Re:3 outages in 55 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620479)

1. "Smart grid" will not protect you against retards with chainsaws and trucks smashing power poles down.

2. It will not protect you against storms bringing down lines

Anyway, "dirty bomb" is the most useless way to do anything. It's only been sensationalized on TV to people that don't know a difference between a nuclear bomb and a power plant.. Like it or not, US has been using "dirty bombs" in Iraq and other places. They just call them "depleted uranium", where "dirty bomb" is just a coincidental side effect. Somehow society hasn't collapsed because it.

As to number of people "marting themselves", seems like a lot of hoopla over nothing. Reminds me of commies under every stone back in the 1950s. Same paranoia over nothing. All while 50-60+ people get killed by guns every day (about half accidentally or suicides or domestic) in the US and no one even blinks.

I guess people can die in preventable car crashes and gun violence in thousands and no one blinks because it is "normal", but some retards kill 3 and main a few and they shut down a city and talk about changing laws to "protect us". Rational thinking anyone?? Have we lost that capability?

Re:3 outages in 55 years (1)

foobsr (693224) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620873)

Rational thinking anyone?? Have we lost that capability?

Yes. It is (and probably always was) referred to as "cynical" and quite forbidden.

CC.

Re:3 outages in 55 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620509)

I used to think the US had good stable power. I picked up the habit of using a UPS for my home computers, and the thing that amazes me is how often you can hear the UPS switch to battery for a few seconds due to line undervoltage. It may not be enough of a brownout to make your incandescent lights go to half brightness, but it's out of spec for the US power supply and bad for all sorts of electronics.

I've observed this in enough different locations to consider it endemic to California at the very least, including urban and suburban areas with supposedly good infrastructure.

Re:3 outages in 55 years (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620717)

Every now and then the power will flicker enough to force you to reset clocks on appliances, but I haven't had a real outage in years. Probably not since the great mid-west blackout in 2003-4. Going back 15+ years, I remember having some outages from ice storms. Specifically when you get an early ice storm and the trees still have leaves on them. You get a TON more branches snapping lines that way. Doesn't happen often though.

But does prevent cascade failure? (3, Interesting)

iceco2 (703132) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620049)

In many cases in the past building a power grid resilient to small power outages, automatically rerouting power around failed components
only leads to it being more susceptible to large power failures caused by cascading failures.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_outage [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cascading_failure [wikipedia.org]

di34 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620053)

came as a comple7e of aal legitimate

Bad data (5, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620103)

My power company installed 'smart meters' and an r.f. control and data acquisition grid over a decade ago.

Several decades ago, I used to work for them. Back then, we began a task to build a database of customers, transformers, distribution lines and substation circuits. All with the idea of eventually implementing such a system. Customers records were linked to a 'grid number' which was tied to their serving transformer, circuit and substation. These grid numbers are actually put on every pole (and other physical asset) in the company.

One of my engineering tasks was to review and correct errors in the database. At times, reports were generated that showed one small transformer feeding 50 or 100 customers (impossible without burning it up). A quick field review showed that many customers had been assigned to a few grid numbers many miles away. My suspicion was that some engineers were completing their paperwork sitting in a bar and these grid numbers were the ones visible out the front window.

Fast forward to a few years ago: My cabin (build recently) lost power when a tree took out my service line during a large storm. After doing repairs, I called the power company (I no longer worked for for the past few decades). I told the service rep that I would be ready to have the transformer re-energized. She said, "Sorry. We have to wait for the other customers on that transformer to have their services inspected." Well, I happen to be down a long, lonely road. And my cabin is the only one feeding from that point. I know this because that used to be my business. I explained this to the c.s.r. She said, "But the computer says ..."

"The computer's data is screwed up. It was screwed up 20 years ago when I worked there. It still is. Send a lineman out to put the fuse back in." She did.

If this little anecdote reflects the current state of even a fraction of our utility infrastructure, its going to take much more than a few smart meters to straighten this mess out.

Re:Bad data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620957)

And that kids is why you have random audits. Pick random stuff and check it's right. It won't be. Now identify and _fix_ the cause of whatever error you found.

I mean anything. Say you see a can of Coke. Well OK then, is this legitimately a product of the Coca-Cola corporation or could it be a cheap knock-off? Which factory does the batch ID trace back to? Were the proper records made for tax purposes when it was sold to you? Did the tax authority properly report the resulting income? Is the contact address on the can correct? Is this barcode properly assigned to the Coca-Coal corporation? Are the people who sold it keeping it chilled according to the instructions from the Coke rep who agreed they could have that Coke-branded fridge to sell the cans out of? Is the refrigerator correctly installed according to local building regulations? Is the power for the fridge properly metered? Does the meter number tie up correctly to the utility customer who is running the fridge? Does the location record for that meter correctly show the place where the fridge is installed and not somewhere else?

Follow the trail. Identify the cause of mistakes. Fix the cause. Make the world better.

Re:Bad data (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622217)

And that kids is why you have random audits. Pick random stuff and check it's right. It won't be. Now identify and _fix_ the cause of whatever error you found.

Until you get push back from the people affected by the audit. We started out with a simple scoring system: How many customers were not assigned to grid numbers. Compliance immediately shot up to 100% when engineers could poke in any old grid number. Local branch management got their reward bonus.

Then, some smart engineer at HQ noted that some of the data didn't make sense. You can't connect a megawatt of customer load to a 15 kVA transformer. So they sent out reports. But had they gone and taken back the bonuses, the affected managers would have screamed. So there was another bonus for bringing the over/underloaded reports below some error rate. And that was done (in many cases) by lazy engineers taking the list of transformers with zero customers and moving customers off overloaded units. Sitting at their desks, with highlighter pens. Not by field-checking the accuracy. So when those reports were cleaned up, another bonus was paid. And the database was still full of shit. Its a game. And pretty soon, management tired of paying bonuses while the data remained polluted.

But its unfair of me to pick on the local power company alone. When I went to work for Boeing, it was the same thing all over again. Management got points for their engineers making data entries. Anything would do, so long as the blank got filled in and the end of month report showed a zero error rate. Just hope someone was contentious enough to chase down the bad data before that airplane actually rolled out the factory door.

Re:Bad data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621497)

Thanks for that. This is actually a fundamental problem with basically any database with real-world data in it. There'll be noise in it, errors, inconsistencies, and so forth. It gets worse with data that is gathered but seldom used. Even in frequently-used databases there'll be some noise, though.

The noise will be there, and is not in itself a problem. The problem comes when lazy system designers conveniently assume the data will be perfect (eventually) and don't give a hoot about the trouble caused in the meantime, sometimes even neglecting to provide ways to verify or correct the data.

This is quite similar to how SCADA systems far too often turn out to be {designed,implemented,rolled out,installed,operated,decomissioned} without regard to information security. Both on the unauthorised access and on the privacy levels. IE the access control is below par and it collects too much data for no good reason, then leaks it.

What I'd like to know, now that this one fully smart grid is operational, is how much legitimate use the fine-grained smart meters detailing the customers' use provides. Not could or might provide, how much of it is actually useful.

If the same needs are served by, say, monthly aggregates, then we can ditch the smart meters and their by-the-minute broadcasting of people's energy use. No, gathering all that data into a database then aggregating it is not good enough. Automate the rest as much as you want, just don't gather data that might turn around and bite the customer.

Re:Bad data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43622235)

What are the privacy ramifications of smart grids sharing your power consumption with all sorts of devices?

Third world? (1, Funny)

FireFury03 (653718) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620121)

US: Look! Less power cuts!
Rest of the world: Whats a power cut?

Every time I read about US infrastructure it makes it sound like a third world country...

Re:Third world? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621243)

Does it save money overall? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620135)

It's interesting that the utility says "and helped some customers save money, according to the utility that operates it", but was there an overall average savings across all customers, or are customers paying more overall to pay off the $800M investment while the utility cuts their generating and transmission costs, earning more profit?

Re:Does it save money overall? (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620399)

FPL is still a government regulated utility so their rates are set by the state of Florida. They can't raise or lower their rates without requesting a rate case hearing which takes at least a year to submit and can take as much as two years to get an answer. So it is in their best interest to be as efficient as possible. Full disclosure - I work for Nextera Energy [nexteraenergy.com] parent company to FPL.

Re:Does it save money overall? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620453)

FPL is still a government regulated utility so their rates are set by the state of Florida. They can't raise or lower their rates without requesting a rate case hearing which takes at least a year to submit and can take as much as two years to get an answer. So it is in their best interest to be as efficient as possible. Full disclosure - I work for Nextera Energy [nexteraenergy.com] parent company to FPL.

PG&E in California has to go through the PUC before raising rates too, but that doesn't mean that they are efficient or use the money for what they said they will since there have been rate increases that were supposed to go to pipeline maintenance that never happened [turndev.org] . Now that a pipeline exploded with fatal results (and with PG&E discovering that it doesn't have a full audit trail for much of its pipeline network), they want ratepayers to pay again for the maintenance that they supposedly already paid for.

Having a regulated utility doesn't ensure fair rates.

Re:Does it save money overall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620939)

Cost of energy should come down as smart grid should ease up the peak use. During peak use, cost of energy shoots up as these guys have to bring in more juice from somewhere else and/or run backup plants. Running these plants is expensive, keeping them in running order is even more so.

http://herterenergy.com/pdfs/Publications/LBNL-50626%20ACEEE%20.pdf [herterenergy.com]

Shorter power outages should help as well.

Re:Does it save money overall? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621753)

OG&E claims that 99% of their customers on their "SmartHours" program saved money last year. I was on the program and saved about $100 a month. I can say that I probably didn't use any less energy, as I already turn lights off an whatnot during the day and most of last summer it was so hot that the AC couldn't keep up even when the smart thermostats turned the temperature up during the day. However, their pricing plan for cheaper evening and weekend hours overcame the jacked up prices during peak hours and I ended up saving a lot of money over the summer.

Re:Does it save money overall? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622573)

I got on a similar program like that years ago when it was a pilot program from my local utility. Things like the dish washer, cloths dryer, AC, etc were all well utilized during the low usage periods. I would have it so that the AC would chill the house up until right before the peak pricing kicked in then shut off until a little before anyone got home thus minimizing the peak power usage and still being fairly cool before it started back up. I figure that also took some of the load off the fridge and freezer during the day as well. Also starting loads of laundry early in the morning when I would get up or right before bed isn't a big deal and neither is running the dish washer when I go to bed.

likely all tied to the internet (1)

KernelMuncher (989766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620193)

My guess is that all of this "smart" gear is tied into the internet, using default or no passwords. It will probably take some hacker shutting down a large section of the grid for the industry to get serious about security.

Not so smart grid (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620221)

As I get older, I'm realizing that when an Industry slaps "Smart-"something on a product, it's more about the marketing and less about the architecture. This technology basically uses wi-fi in a mesh topology. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Re:Not so smart grid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620547)

Most of this 'smart' is about truck rolls. Before they would send a guy out to check a meter then write it down get in his truck and do the next house. Now they either drive a truck up and down the street (zigbee/wifi) or do it remotely (cell network). Where as before they needed an army of guys to walk house to house they can do it with a small handful. That small army was usually union too. So they got very high hourly rates, plus the cost of X trucks vs Y and taxes on those capital assets, huge buildings these guys 'worked out of', and so on...

90% of this is about saving the particular company installing it money. Not the end customer. End customer comes into play when they do put some 'smarts' into it. They can say 'hey the voltage is wrong at these 10 houses vs the 10 1 block over' and they can fix their substation.

Do not confuse smart and remote. But you can not do smart without remote (at least not in a timely manner). Really smart the network would have figured out which of the 10 houses were wrong and fixed it without someone having to go touch the box.

Having people physically touch boxes costs time and money.

And yet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620369)

And yet this is so much FUD when you look at the huge uproar in British Columbia with people resorting to physical locks and chains and vigilant guarding analog meters all because BC Hydro is so insistent these smart meters don't cause health problems but yet they've been causing health issues, frying appliances and computers, and even reporting usage totals that were WAY OFF. There was even one case where BC Hydro was forced to remove a smart meter, put a analog one back in it's place and the smart meter was still showing active power usage on the back of a truck.

Also does not help in that province where BC Hydro has been caught again and again converting to stealth like tactics to install smart meters right on people's private property often without their permission even though there was clerly signage stating a customer wanted to stick with their old analog meter and even had it padlocked only for a contractor or a bc hydro employee to physically cut the padlock and chain and install it anyway.

Re:And yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43620809)

frying appliances and computers

The amount you would have to mess with a simple sine wave input to get waveforms that could damage simple switching power supplies or things with motors would make me thing it is uneconomically to make smart meters that did this on purpose, let alone by accident. There are some things more sensitive to power quality, but typically not those too short of the power being really bad (e.g. generator with square wave output not being good for motors).

Re:And yet (3, Insightful)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620833)

Do you even know what FUD is? It stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. In other words, your entire post is FUD.

Health problems? Where is real, documented evidence of health problems caused by smart meters?

Inaccurate readings? Happens with analog meters too (and gas meters and water meters). Big difference is, when someone with an old meter has a problem they call the power company, not the local TV station.

'Caught' using 'stealth like tactics'? What does that even mean. I don't know how it is in BC, but in the US part of the deal when signing up for service is that you give permission for the power company to come onto your 'private property' for the purposes of reading meters and maintaining their equipment. They don't need any more permission than that. And the meters are THEIR property, not the homeowners, so it is no surprise that they would just cut off illegally installed locks. What is kind of surprising is that, having cut off the lock, they don't just remove the meter and leave you without service altogether.

cnbc asked a bunch of kids (-1, Offtopic)

Twillerror (536681) | about a year and a half ago | (#43620969)

CNBC asked a bunch of kids if they wanted glasses or least wanted to try them. Some CNET guy was there.

All the little kiddies raised there hands. Then told it was 1500 bucks they lowered them.

I think cost is its biggest problem. Everyone who sees the videos thinks it is cool..everyone will use them why they drive or walk around town. They will probably take them off when they sit down at the bar.

Not just for outages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43621315)

Power quality sensors also provide information about load balancing tri-phase, which can result in more efficient power distribution. Another big problem power companies have is detecting recloser operation. They are essentially big mechanical switches that operate during a fault, and most power companies systematically replace them based on a time interval, rather than the number of times that they operate. There is a huge overhead in the costs of replacing good reclosers that can be avoided by power quality monitoring. Current harmonics and direction also something that companies are pushing us to report. The line temperature is also very important for line SAG analysis and the fact that conductors can be permanently disfigured at high temperatures.

There's also a Canadian company planning to use our sensors to track down marijuana grow operations that illegally tap power to run their systems.

How smart? (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year and a half ago | (#43621821)

"All the interfaces and controls from the power plants down to your thermostat have been rationalised to use the same username (admin) and password (password) to save unparalleled amounts of time and money to be passed along as executive bonuses".

"Now, that's PHB-level smart!"

But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43622417)

and helped some customers save money

How many customers did it help cost more money?

The smart grid has (not) arrived (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622445)

A real "smart grid" would store excess energy when it is not needed and releases it during periods of most need. It would provide a buffer enabling more reliable, effecient and distributed means of generation.

A "smart meter" just browbeats people into accomplishing a similar task with ultimatly much less resiliant outcomes.

Re:The smart grid has (not) arrived (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622555)

You are wrong on all accounts.

As just one example, the Oconee power generation complex in south carolina stores energy during the night when the demand does not exceed the output of the nuclear plant, and then releases that energy during the day.

Just because the storage medium is not some sexy new battery that pollutes the environment and releases toxic chemicals when it fails, does not mean this system is not smart.

The storage medium in this case happens to be simply water. At night, when the nuclear plant output exceeds demand, water is pumped uphill from Lake Keowee into Lakes Toxaway and Bad Creek - storing energy cleanly in the gravitational potential of billions of tons of water.

During the day, during higher demand, the water flows downhill through hydro plants, generating the excess energy needed to meet demand.

So, your post is patently false, as there are facilities like this in many many locations throughout the globe.

The smart meter browbeats no one, as giving the utility control over your appliances is 100% voluntary. However, HAN networks hosted by many modern smart meters give you real-time access to your instantaneous demand and time-of-use data, so you yourself can make smarter decisions about how you use energy. Most people, sadly, are not interested in taking any measures to reduce their energy consumption, but like most hypocrites, have no problem supporting systems that force OTHERS to do same.

The #1 reason people just don't want smart meters is because they don't want to be billed accurately, because they've learned by now that spinning disc meters slow down and underbill over time.

Smart Grids? (1)

we3 (546328) | about a year and a half ago | (#43622699)

In Illinois were getting a "Smart Grid" which is supposed to make ComEds system more efficient. So of course that means we need to pay up front for the new meters and our electricity rates are going up. Yays for efficiency.

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