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Vermont's electrical grid is at a tipping Nike Air Max Tavas Turquoise

point, experts say.

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Understanding the difference between transmission and distribution is vital to understanding the changes that are taking place in the grid.

"It's in all aspects of the electrical grid," says White.

Smart meter versus smart grid

"The smart meter is the most visible component of the smart grid, but it's not the most important component," says Paul Hines, assistant professor at the University of Vermont School of Engineering and an expert on electrical grids.

Distributed generation may be the wind turbine you installed on your roof, or the small scale community solar farm down the road.

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Distributed generation requires distribution lines to run both ways more like transmission lines. It also reduces the amount of power transmission lines need to carry, since more electricity is generated where it is used.

many. Here is a brief overview of its most important aspects.

Customers can see this in the social networking tools that the company uses to communicate with them, he says, but there is even more of that behind the scenes. But to people in the electrical industry, there is an important distinction.

"To the grid it looks like energy efficiency," because it is produced and consumed in the same place, reducing input from the larger grid, says Darren Springer, deputy commissioner of the Public Service Department, the state agency that represents the public interest in energy issues.

Right now Vermonters are making important decisions about our electrical grid, but the grid itself is a mystery to Nike Air Max Thea Nordstrom

Experts expect the distribution system to grow more complex, while the transmission system grows more robust to meet new federal requirements.

Net metering is the method used in Vermont to link distributed generation systems into the larger grid. Excess energy is sold to the Air Max Thea Carbon Green

It's no accident that those small, local electrical Nike Thea Air Max Green generation projects are known as "distributed generation." They connect to distribution lines, while major power plants connect to transmission lines.

It's not an isolated phenomenon. Vermont's electrical grid is part of a New England wide network of bulk power generators and transmission lines operated by ISO New England. ISO stands for "independent system operator." The New England network in turn is part of a larger regional grid that covers the eastern half of the country.

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´╗┐Basic facts about the future of Vermont

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Connectivity as in the Internet is at the heart of the smart grid, explains Greg White, vice president of field operations for Green Mountain Power, or GMP.

Net metering and distributed generation

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The need for a multi million dollar piece of equipment, a synchronous condenser, to fully integrate the Lowell wind project into the grid may have led some Vermonters to think that all renewable energy projects require expensive upgrades.

When renewables wink off, says Ed McNamara, regional policy director for the Public Service Department, gas generation plants can start producing power in ten minutes.

"Distributed generation is exploding," says VELCO's Johnson, "not just in Vermont, but across the United States."

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"We are in a period of unprecedented change at an accelerating rate," says Kerrick Johnson, vice president for external affairs at the Vermont Electric Power Company, known as VELCO.

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It's the use of digital technology to relay outage information, reroute power and even locate crews that makes the smart grid smart, he says.

But Vermont does chart its own path, with laws passed by the state Legislature and regulatory decisions made by the Public Service Board which acts as a sort of energy court. Vermont's role as a national leader in net metering regulations and smart grid technology means that during this period of accelerating change, we have a seat in the front of the roller coaster.

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However, says Hines, "The synchronous condenser in Lowell is a particular solution to a particular problem building a wind farm in a weak part of the grid."

local utility at the going rate. The state Legislature is considering a bill that will extend Vermont's net metering law."Integrating wind and solar requires changes to the grid," says Hines, "but we're not going to tear it up and start new."

Adjustments must be made when any type of power plant goes on line. The real trick with renewables, Hines says, is balancing the electrical load when both solar and wind systems can slow down or stop producing power in an instant as when a cloud passes in front of the sun.

Transmission lines move high voltages across long distances. In Vermont, VELCO operates the state's transmission system. Distribution lines bring power to our homes and businesses and are owned and maintained by Vermont's 17 electric distribution utilities.

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