The United States spent over $7 billion in 2010 on Smart Grid technologies. That’s second only to China. Geoff Zeiss provides some really interesting posts on his Between the Poles blog discussing a number of energy production and usage issues including smart grid investment if you’re interested. I read a little about the topic out of curiosity, but in a recent discussion with a fellow engineer I was surprised to find that numerous parts of the technological puzzle making up the smart grid aren’t standardized yet.
The wireless connection from electric water heaters to the meter base for instance is still being debated. I assumed that the ZigBee smart energy standard was it. However that isn’t necessarily the case. As a matter of fact there are a number of challenges in those “smart appliance to the meter” and “meters in the housing development to the community” connections that are still being discussed. ZigBee might not be the best solution or at least not the only wireless solution in the system.
Regardless of the standards and technologies, what stuck with me was how big the opportunity is for businesses to grow with the implementation of these systems. It would be a shame if this huge and growing smart grid industry was completely captured by non-US companies. These types of high-tech products are what all of us techies want and the country needs to nurture to provide good jobs in the US.
I’m happy to report that there are some US-based companies that are deeply involved in these standards discussions and technology development. One of my favorites is FreeWave Technologies. FreeWave is a Boulder, Colorado based manufacturer that designs and manufacturers all their products here in the US. If you took a peek inside the drones and other unmanned vehicles that our armed service guys utilize so effectively today, you’d see FreeWave radios. They are the kind of company that you should support if you believe in “Made in America”.
Visit the FreeWave Technologies website to see the types of products and technologies they are making. Also post your comments below or contact me to discuss your opinions on where the smart grid is going and what technologies and automation devices you think will be used in implementing it.