Unified Smart Grid

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Unified National Smart Grid as well as Unified Solar is a proposal for a United States wide area grid that is a national interconnected network relying on a high capacity backbone of electric power transmission lines linking all the nation's local electrical networks that have been upgraded to smart grids. Europe's analogous project is sometimes referred to as the SuperSmart Grid, a term that also appears in the literature describing the Unified Smart Grid.[1]

President Barack Obama asked the United States Congress "to act without delay" to pass legislation that included doubling renewable energy production in the next three years and building a new electricity "smart grid".[2]

Technical features[edit]

High capacity transmission such as current technology 800 kV high voltage direct current lines would span the country providing linkages to local electric utilities and distantly located bulk power generation facilities. The national backbone would be intelligent in a manner similar to local smart grid clusters. As local electricity networks are upgraded to smart grids, interactions with the national backbone can become more coordinated. Examples given of the kinds of coordination are that hydropower from the northwest can be dispatched if wind is expected to temporarily subside in the Dakotas. Discretionary air conditioning in California can be turned on if there are strong winds blowing in Delaware.

Long distance interconnections are not new. The 1400 km Pacific DC Intertie between Los Angeles and the Pacific northwest was proposed in the 1930s and initiated by President John F. Kennedy in the 60s. The Pacific Intertie carries up to 3.1 GW on two 500 kV overhead lines. The 1200 km Quebec to New England HVDC line with 2 GW of capacity was constructed in the 1980s. A 5 GW 800 kV system is being constructed along the southern provinces of China at a cost of €300 million and is scheduled for completion in 2010[3]

The Unified Smart Grid proposal is not simply a collection of point to point interconnections between regional systems with some communications intelligence. The topology conceptually has many access points with each node being a smart grid that could be a virtual power generation cluster, could be a local electric utility system, or could be a Grid energy storage facility.


According to advocates, the idea of a national system would do for the US energy economy what Dwight Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System did for efficient distribution of products. Solar power from Arizona would be able to supply manufacturing in Ohio, or evening wind power from the Northeast could be used to supply power peak demand during the day in Nevada. According to leading scientists such as James E. Hansen, construction of such a national grid is essential to any strategy to combat global warming.[4] According to energy independence advocates such as T. Boone Pickens, it is essential for the U.S. economy and its strategic energy interests. Some advocate the system as a candidate for a massive public works project that would stimulate the US economy after the Global financial crisis of 2008.[5]

The "Unified Smart Grid" is promoted by Alliance for Climate Protection (Repower America program[1]) and Al Gore. The cost estimate by Al Gore is $400 billion[6] and would be recovered by tariffs on transmission. The need for a national bulk transmission grid is detailed in T. Boone Pickens's energy independence plan.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Unified National Smart Grid". Repower America. Archived from the original on November 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  2. ^ http://planetark.org/wen/51189
  3. ^ .Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution (2006-06-11). "China to Construct High-Voltage Transmission System Between Yunnan, Guangdong". Transmission & Distribution World. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  4. ^ James E. Hansen (2008-06-23). "Global Warming Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near" (PDF). Testimony to House Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Columbia University. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  5. ^ Oliver Marks (2008-11-08). "Al Gore's 'Unified Smart Grid' vision for repowering the USA - will it happen?". ZDNet Tech News. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  6. ^ Al Gore (2008-11-09). "Op-Ed: The Climate for Change". New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved 2008-11-17.