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Sandy shows the need for a smarter power grid

Approximately 200,000 people in Maryland were left without power in wake of hurricane Sandy on Oct. 30 2012. Three days later only 700 houses were still left without power. Jeannette M. Mills at Baltimore Gas and Electricity observed that the quick restoration was partially made possible by smart meters and smart grid, made of two-way communications systems, smart meters and sensors, similar to shift from analog to digital system in cable services. Smart meters pinpoint precise locations of meters to electricity service sources through digital communication, thus saving time, dollars and wasteful service rounds to locations where power has been already restored.

The question is why in this technologically advanced age does a sizable amount of population has to stay without power during crisis such as Sandy? Is there no vision on contingency power supply grid at city level or neighborhood level? The Obama administration's case for conversion to a smart grid was facilitate integration of more renewable generation into the grid. Where is this renewable energy? Why are we not considering the solar roadways project conceived by Scott and Julie Brusaw and advocated by U.S. Senator from Indiana Mike Crapo, to harvest solar energy to feed into the smart grid? These discussions need to occur more rampantly at city and entrepreneurial level.

Given the fear of failure, unfavorable public reaction, unproven track record and high upfront cost, the concept could be applied at a smaller scale such as a street sidewalk or a bike path and then increasing incrementally, to include network of streets in neighborhood, parking lots and even green-ways, trails and networks, at city scale. The Vacant to Values plan advocated by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake could also be a starting point for this experiment. This is the time, now, to take more risks and build more solar roadways and greenways to harvest energy to feed the smart grids that light up our days when overcast with storms.

Archana Sharma, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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