Smart Grid: What is it?
The term “Smart Grid” was created after a major blackout occurred in the Northeastern United States in August 2003. Analysis revealed that if additional intelligence about grid conditions had been more widely known earlier on, the extent of the blackout could have been reduced, if not avoided altogether.
Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy is charged with the task of modernizing our energy system to a “Smart Grid”. The concept has grown from transmission reliability to advanced technology that affects all aspects of our electric system from generation to consumer.
Several definitions of the Smart Grid exist with various elements, capabilities, and levels of participation. The general consensus envisions a Smart Grid with the following main components:
- Intelligent home area networks and appliances
- Advanced metering systems
- Two-way communication between the home area network and utility
- Faster, forward-thinking controllers processing real-time information about generation, distribution, and transmission
- Increased data and system controls allowing integration of customer load into system processes
- Increased data and information flow
The key to a successful Smart Grid is the re-education of the industry on how to make it work seamlessly and the education of the customer to take advantage of the increased energy usage information and choices.
To understand Smart Grid, one must understand our current grid. In simple terms, our energy is generated in power plants or by renewable resources (such as wind, solar, and hydropower), and is then transmitted to utility companies, and distributed to consumers. The goal of the Smart Grid is to allow all segments of the electric industry to get “smarter.”
- Smart Generation
The Smart Grid could help manage the integration of new generation (such as renewable sources) and storage technologies, such as thermal energy and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle batteries (PHEV) into our current system.
- Smart Transmission
Increased investment in faster, forward-thinking, and more widespread data collection could improve current monitoring and controls to minimize outages and identify vulnerabilities.
- Smart Distribution
The Smart Grid aims to make the distribution system more efficient, reduce losses by managing peak loads, and assist in serving increased loads from items such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). Future distribution systems may be equipped with additional switching capacity to isolate damaged sections during outages.
- Smart Customers
Customers could manage their personal energy consumption through smart appliances, home area networks, and advanced metering data.