Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Austin's Amazing, Ambitious Pecan Street Project

In addition to its well deserved reputation as a mecca for technology and live music, Austin is a Smart Grid development hot bed, not doubt about it. Code named (non threateningly enough) after a street named after a nut, the Pecan Street Project is going to be fun to watch. It begins in a city that's already miles ahead of the competition, with intelligent meters deployed in large numbers since 2003. In case you're wondering, that's long before the term Smart Grid ever rolled off anyone's lips.

It's all captured simply in the project's four stated initiatives:
  1. Austin will develop a clean energy public/private research and development consortium. Its mission will be to research and develop clean energy technologies and distributed generation systems on Austin’s grid.
  2. The consortium will create an economically sustainable distributed generation system. Unlike any other “smart grid” project in America, the Pecan Street Project intends to develop a new distributed generation system that integrates clean energy into an economically sustainable business model. The Pecan Street Project will provide the consortium with access to Austin’s grid to test and develop this new system.
  3. Austin Energy will open its grid to entrepreneurs and researchers to test prototype technologies in the real world. We aren’t just going to build a lab – the City of Austin will be the lab.
  4. We will implement this model locally and system-wide. Once the consortium creates the new distributed generation system, Austin will show the world how it works. We will do that by using this system to develop the locally produced clean energy equivalent of a new power plant.
Can you imagine what would happen if this was going on in YOUR town? What are the security implications of going this far this fast? If it doesn't work out well can the project be unwound without too much pain and suffering? You can read more about it on the official PSP web site here, and check out IBM's take on it here.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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