The Obama administration today announced 100 utility projects that will collectively receive $3.4 billion in federal stimulus money to promote the development and deployment of advanced electricity grid technologies. The Department of Energy said that the grants, ranging from $400,00 to $200 million in size, will spawn the installation of nearly 20 million advanced digital meters, nationwide. By enabling utilities and regulators to improve demand-side management, these so-called "smart meters" are viewed as an a key component to modernizing the country's electric grid. They also let owners of solar panels -- and other distributed renewable energy generation systems -- track and manage their electricity use.
If you're interested in producing your own power, solar panels are a good start. But to truly maximize the return on your solar investment, you'll need to consider two other pieces of the puzzle: energy management and energy efficiency. Google, the Internet and information giant, may be able to help.