Etheridge hopes stimulus will help research

RALEIGH Congressman Bob Etheridge describes research happening right now on NC State's Centennial Campus as exciting as the early days of the space program.

Scientists there are working on a big project that could benefit from the economic stimulus money coming from Washington.

Power plants like Shearon Harris, use lots of fuel while producing electricity. That's why scientists, including those at NC State along with Etheridge, are developing cleaner, more efficient energy producers like the Smart Grid.

"What we need to do is invest in these new technologies, to demonstrate how that winds up improving efficiency, improving economics of the system, so people a better value out of it. NC State industrial liaison Mark Johnson said. "Then, by using the stimulus money for some of that, it'll wind up stimulating additional private sector investment on top of that." Etheridge's research center visit could result in federal stimulus money for the centennial campus. He is impressed by the Smart Grid, and its potential as a home energy saver.

"Appliances will know when to come on and off, bottom line is, it saves money for the consumer, because the appliances will not come on at peak times," Etheridge said. "You'll be able to manage the load use, the amount of energy you use. Instead of paying for it at the peak hours, you're paying for it at the cheapest hours."

And Smart Grids can help homes generate their own electricity, while reducing today's need for huge power plants. We've all seen similar reductions in size for efficiency.

For example, computers, years ago they were big machines inside big rooms accessible only to a few professionals. Then, in the 1980s, came the Internet. Now, nearly everybody has one of these, or knows how to use one.

Etheridge thinks the Smart Grid will benefit from the stimulus.

"It is the model we need to use in the 21st century," Etheridge said. "They've already got it on the ground, and running. They have results to show. So I would think that if any of those funds are going to flow, some of those funds are going to wind up on the NC State campus."

"Wherever that Smart Grid's being built, Raleigh will benefit, the Triangle will benefit because jobs are going to be created here," Johnson said. "So that's a huge reason for us to get behind the Smart Grid."

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