Smart Grid – brought to you in part by Michigan?

5 Dec 2012

In January, I blogged about the so-called “Smart Grid” and what it may mean for the future of the electric system in this Country.   And, while alot of the Smart Grid is about better information for both utilities and consumers, another part is about improving efficiencies.

Last week, the MEDC announced that a Michigan Company, Grid Logic, received a $3.8 Million federal grant to develop a low-cost superconducting wire for use by electric utilities and others.  This project, which sounds very cool, will involve embedding very fine superconducting particles in a combination of metals to induce superconductivity. If successful, the wire would reduce the cost of transmission lines, motors for wind turbines, and other electric devices.  I wonder if the technique will have other applications as well.

This was part of a series of 66 grants totaling $130 Million  by the US Energy Department to foster the development of various cutting edge energy-related technologies.

While the current administration calls it a good example of “economic gardening” – it seems to me that the Government is doing what it has always done, take chances on encouraging technological advancement.  When it pays off, it’s touted as common sense investment in the future – when it fails, it’s perjoratively called “picking winners and losers.”  The New York Times has been running a series on incentives (where it appears only one state has given more incentives than Michigan) – personally, I’m in favor of incentives when they’re well designed, well thought out and planned to foster future-looking efforts – that’s what the federal government did when it incentivized the railroads and oil drilling in the 1800s and 1900s respectively.  Is this program a boondoggle? It depends on politics and results and those are yet to be seen.  I favor investments in the future and  the Energy grants (while having some problems) seem to fall into that category.

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