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Tomorrow's Power Grid Will Be Autonomous

Benjamin kroposki, Andrey Bernstein, Jennifer king, and fei ding; IEEE Spectrum

It's great to have neighbors you can depend on, whether you're borrowing a cup of sugar or you need someone to walk your dog while you're out of town. In the western Colorado neighborhood of Basalt Vista, the residents are even closer than most: They share their electricity. But unlike your neighbor with the sugar, the residents of Basalt Vista may not even know when they're being generous. The energy exchanges happen automatically, behind the scenes. What residents do know is how inexpensive, reliable, and renewable their electricity is.

The 27 smart homes in Basalt Vista, located about 290 kilometers west of Denver, are part of a pilot for an altogether new approach to the power grid. The entire neighborhood is interconnected through a microgrid that in turn connects to the main grid. Within each home, every smart appliance and energy resource—such as a storage battery, water heater, or solar photovoltaic (PV) system—is controlled to maximize energy efficiency.