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US energy officials are handing out $47m of the county's economic stimulus package to speed up work on several "smart grid" technology test sites. The money comes out of a $3.9bn pool of grants aimed at modernizing the electrical grid.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today that the money will go towards eight smart grid demonstration projects being developed in seven states. The $47m in funds goes on top of the $17m awarded by the US Department of Energy in 2008 to begin testing.

"Modernizing our electrical grid to make it stronger, smarter, more efficient and more secure is a crucial step in expanding renewable energy and creating jobs," said Chu in a statement.

These projects include superconducting power lines, user demand-responsive "microgrids," and integrating renewable energy into the grid. The DOE is awarding the funds to power companies as well as several universities and cities trying to modernize electrical utility kit. Those cashing in include the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, California's Zenergy Power, and Consolidated Edison of New York. A full list of the recipients and what they are doing can be seen here.

About $10.5m in economic stimulus funding will also be sent to local governments to develop "emergency preparedness plans for their electrical systems," the DOE said.

In addition to grant money, the DOE issued its first bi-annual status report on smart grid deployments. The study found some while most smart grid penetration remains low in the US, some of the technology like "smart meters" that provide two-way communication between electricity users and power plants have been growing quickly.

A copy of the Smart Grid System Report is available here (PDF). ®

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