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Smart grid boosted

Obama unveils $3.4B for modernization

President Barack Obama tours the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Fla., on Tuesday, with DeSoto construction manager Greg Bove, left, Florida Power and Light CEO, and Lewis Hay.

AP Photo

ARCADIA, Fla. — President Barack Obama made a pitch for renewable energy Tuesday, announcing $3.4 billion in government support for 100 projects aimed at modernizing the nation’s power grid.

Touring a field of solar energy panels in west-central Florida, the president urged greater use of several technologies to make America’s power transmission system more efficient and better suited to the digital age. The projects include installing “smart” electric meters in homes, automating utility substations, and installing thousands of new digital transformers and grid sensors.

“There’s something big happening in America in terms of creating a clean-energy economy,” Obama said, although he added there is much more to be done.

He likened the effort to the ambitious development of the national highway system 50 years ago. He said modernization would lead to a “smarter, stronger and more secure electric grid.”

Under muggy skies, Obama toured the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which is designed to generate enough energy for about 3,000 residential customers of the utility FPL. It is the nation’s largest photovoltaic electricity facility.

Obama said a modern grid could give consumers better control over their electricity usage and costs, and spur development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The $3.4 billion in grants from the government’s January economic stimulus program will be matched by $4.7 billion in private investments.

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