By Jesse Berst
Not satisfied with the progress and "greenness" of local utilities, a group of Silicon Valley companies has decided to develop its own smart grid. The story in the Silicon Valley Business Journal is a bit vague, but I'm guessing it will take the form of a microgrid with local renewables and energy storage. A regional think tank will head up the effort in partnership with Google, Yahoo, Intuit and Juniper Networks, among others. They are billing the 8.25 square mile zone as a "shared testing ground for cutting edge clean tech solutions."
Given the brainpower resident in the region, we can only hope that the initiative will bring about some breakthroughs. It certainly underlines the challenge faced by today's utilities. Customers don't want them raising rates. But they also expect utilities to rapidly update and modernize their grids. And if they don't think progress is fast enough, they may move to somewhere where power is cheaper (as Google and Yahoo did long ago with their big data centers). Or even try to do it on their own.
Think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley president Russell Hancock said the project is important because energy needs are likely to continue growing for tech companies. The group also is committed to trying to reduce Silicon Valley's carbon footprint and improve grid performance.
Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.