From interactive smart grid project maps to cyber-security requirements, there's a new website on the block that intends to be a one-stop shopping destination for all things smart grid.

Virginia Tech recently released a beta version of its Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse, which was funded by the Department of Energy, with plans for a formal launch later this year. The site is both straightforward and incredibly useful, while also slightly lacking in style and a little dry.

The landing page is the most engaging aspect of the site, with a few colorful graphics thrown in to lure consumers, researchers and anyone else looking for information on smart grid topics.

Let's start with the criticism. Go ahead and click on the consumer icon and you'll be instantly bored (if you're really an average person looking to know more about this newfangled thing called smart grid, trust me, you'll be bored).

The consumer is ferried to a page that lets them search through some of the consumer awareness programs sorted by federal, state or private sector efforts. If I want to know what a smart meter is or what better transmission lines can do for me, I'm already lost. There are no pictures, no diagrams, no cost savings, no reminder of the blackout of 2003, impending climate change, or volatile energy prices.

It is a clearinghouse, no more and no less, which is great if you're an analyst or journalist looking for information on how the government is reaching out to consumers, but definitely too wonky if you are an actual consumer. If you can find your way to the SGIC, you probably could have found your way to your own utility's website.

Moving on from the consumer section, there is truly a lot of great information on the website, ranging from cost-benefit analyses and use cases to lessons learned and performance data. If that's not enough, visitors can probe further into standards and regulatory actions by state.

If you think you'll be on the website often, you can create an account to save your favorite documents in different categories. If you have something to add to the clearinghouse, there is also a submission form to add documents and reports.

So how does this compare to smartgrid.gov? From a design perspective, the SGIC site definitely loses out to smartgrid.gov, although from a research perspective (which is what most people will be using this for), it is a helpful resource.

The breadth of information on SGIC is far greater than that which can be found on smartgrid.gov, as it includes reports and cases from various utilities, and not just information about federally funded programs.

There is even an international section, although it has yet to be populated with any information at this time. Keep in mind this site is only the beta version, and there is a very clear call for feedback at the top of every page, and a link to submit comments.

The portal was developed by the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in Arlington, VA, with assistance from the IEEE Power & Energy Society and EnerNex Corporation. Virginia Tech received $1.3 million from the DOE last year to develop the site.

Tags: doe, enernex, ieee, sgic, smart grid, smart grid information clearinghouse, virginia tech