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What Does a Smart Grid Look Like in 2022?

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Karen Marcus's picture
Freelance Energy and Technology Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

In addition to serving as an Energy Central Community Manager, Karen Marcus has 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked with...

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  • Aug 12, 2022
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The original U.S. power grid, which is over 100 years old, wasn’t built to handle the requirements of modern components like distributed energy resources (DERs) and proactive energy consumers (prosumers). That’s why smart technology has taken hold and is becoming more integrated into the grid. These systems enable energy providers to improve the grid in important ways:

  • Replace aging equipment to avoid failure and outages
  • Reduce the overall cost of energy production and consumption
  • Meet increasing energy demands resulting from increased use of appliances, personal technology, and electric vehicles (EVs)
  • Integrate a variety of energy sources — including renewables like solar, wind, and hydro — for energy production, to reduce reliance on fossil fuels
  • Give customers the ability to produce and contribute energy, and empower them with real-time information about their energy use to help them save money and reduce their carbon footprint
  • Reliably regulate the flow of power to prevent outages

The modern power grid is based on a number of discrete technologies working together.

Appliances

The smart grid extends into homes and businesses with appliances that exchange information with power distribution systems. Such machines can then determine the best times and levels at which to operate. For example, a washing machine could start during off-peak hours to decrease the overall power load.

Batteries

Batteries are a critical component of a smart grid because they enable renewable sources like wind and solar to be more consistently available. So, they can become part of the energy mix when most needed during peak periods. This system is cost-effective because energy is often cheaper to store than to generate.    

Generation

Smart generation involves a system that learns the behavior of each component and automatically optimizes resources to maintain certain standards based on feedback from system sensors. So, different sources can be turned on or off based on demand, cost, and other relevant factors.

Meters

Smart meters provide communications between power providers and consumers. The information exchanged enables automated billing and useful data for utilities, including power outages. In the other direction, they deliver specific information about usage that is helpful for consumers. The combination of meters and connected systems such as data management systems and communication networks constitutes advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), which enables time-based pricing, usage forecasts, theft detection, and other benefits.

Maintenance

Sensors monitor transmission equipment and determine when maintenance, repair, or replacement are required. These tools can also isolate problems to prevent them from spreading, a process known as self-healing.  

Microgrids

Grids that power smaller areas but are connected to a main grid can be deployed to contain failures or provide backup power in the event of outages. Microgrids also contribute to energy security, as one going down doesn’t have to impact the larger system.

Substations

These systems monitor and control information about breakers, transformers, batteries, and other components. Smart versions have the ability to handle multi-way power flow from various sources and change operations based on data received.

These components are just a few of the innovative systems that are powering today’s smart grids.

What are your thoughts on smart grid technology? Please share in the comments.

Discussions
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Joshua Aldridge's picture
Joshua Aldridge on Aug 18, 2022

Great overview article Karen! In my opinion, what this boils down to, is empowering the distribution utility and its customers to self-serve and self-regulate in a manner that minimizes the capacity and congestion spikes as close to real time as possible. As such, one category I'd recommend to be included that goes beyond metering and meter data is Intelligent Line Monitoring and Grid Edge Control. While AMI is greatly beneficial to fair billing and load modeling through historical data application, the locational and OT restrictions on AMI make it difficult for utilities to use that data for real-time decision making. Assets in the Intelligent line monitoring and grid edge control category are intended to bridge the gap between AMI and SCADA, by capturing critical data such as conductor loading, disturbances, faults, phasing, etc. in real-time. The coordinated combination of solutions in the categories you've outlined is absolutely critical not only to grid modernization, but equally critical to grid optimization.     

Karen Marcus's picture
Karen Marcus on Aug 24, 2022

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond, Joshua! And thank you for the useful information.

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