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Smart Grid

Debsankar Pramanik's picture
Business Analyst/senior consultant/system analyst/QA-tester/Senior Test Analyst Brillio

13.5 years of professional experience in Energy and Utilities industry for different clients in USA.Project Management Skills accompanied by strong understanding of Electricity in Gas utilities...

  • Member since 2013
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  • • The way we receive electricity, has not changed to a significant level over last 100 years. The coal (thermal), nuclear or hydro power plants send electricity through transmission lines to substations and to transformers, finer and finer wires and small voltages, until the electricity reaches the electric appliances like lights, televisions, laptops, smartphones etc. Since electricity travels faster, every kilowatt must be used the instant it is created. For utilities, this means balancing the heavy loads, trying to match the supply of electricity perfectly and nearly instantly with demands. When demand exceeds supply, there is power outage and everything goes dark. Hence the need of back-up power plants, to provide the excess electricity supply, to meet the demand. Keeping these plants functioning is the most expensive part of the power bills and wastes fuels like natural gas. Over the last few years, the power grid is getting smarter. The utilities began putting sensors on plants that produce lots of electricity like factories. These sensors send back real time data about energy use, giving the utilities a heads up on the demand side of the equation. As sensors become cheaper and cheaper, and technologies, like wireless, has become widespread, utilities are adding more and more sophisticated sensors to the grid, and this means one thing – getting more information. This flood of data will be quickly passed to locate power failures, reroute electricity, or avoid over heating power lines. This means utility companies can better deal with power line failures. Within the next few years, sensors are likely to be everywhere. One type of sensors, known as smart meters, use two-way communication, which will get both utilities and customers better information about who is using what and when. This could eventually lead the utilities to do things like temporarily turn off a smart appliance in your home to help avoid a blackout. In that way, utilities can cut down the budget on creating backup power plants and also less reliable but cleaner electricity sources like wind turbines and solar cells. In a world where energy needs to be cleaner, that seems to be a “smart” approach.

  • • The current electric grid was conceived more than one hundred years ago when electricity needs were simple power generation was localized and built around communities. Most homes had a very small energy demand, such as few light bulbs. The grid was designed to deliver electricity from power generations to the customers’ home and then bill them once a month. This limited one-way communication (utilities to customers) makes the utilities very difficult to respond to modern 21st century ever-changing energy demands. The smart grid introduces a two-way communication where electricity and information can be exchanged between the utilities and its customers. It is a developing network of communication, controls, computers, automation, and new technologies and tools working together to make the grid more efficient, reliable, secure and communicating and greener. The smart grid uses newer technologies to be integrated, such as wind and solar energy productions, and plug-in electric vehicle charging. With the participation of customers as informed customers, the smart grid will replace the aging infrastructure of today’s grid, and the utilities can communicate with its customers in better way to help manage their electricity needs. The smart home communicates with the smart grid and enables to help the customers manage the electricity usage. By measuring a home’s electricity consumption more frequently, with the help of smart meter, the utilities can provide its customers much better information to manage their electricity usage, and correspondingly, the electricity bills. Inside the smart home, a Home Area Network (HAN) can connect the list of smart appliances, thermostat and other electric devices to an energy management system. Smart appliances will adjust their run schedule to reduce electricity demands at grid, at critical times; ex: running washers and dryers at night (off-peak hours), and lower the consumer’s energy bills. The smart devices can be controlled and scheduled over the web, or through smart phone or smart tv. Renewable energy resources like wind and solar energy are sustainable energy sources to generate electric power. However, renewable sources are variable by nature, and add complexity to normal grid operations. The smart grid provides the data and automation needed to make wind turbines and solar panel put energy onto the grid and optimize its use. To keep up with ever changing consumer’s energy demand, the utilities have to constantly turn power plants on and off, depending on the amount of power needed, at a certain point of the day. The cost to deliver power depends on the time of the day it is used. Electricity is more costly at peak times, because additional power plants must run, in order to meet the high energy demands. The smart grid will help the utilities to manage and moderate the energy usage, with the cooperation of customers, especially during peak demand times. As a result, the utilities would be able to reduce their operating costs. By deferring the electricity usage away from peak hours, and having appliances and devices run at other times, electricity production is more evenly distributed throughout the day. The power, being used now, is actually generated less than a second ago, many miles away. At each instance, the amount of electricity generated, must be equal to the consumption across the grid. Smart grid technologies provide detailed information that enables grid operators to see and manage electricity operation in real time. This inner detail reduces the outage and lowers the need for peak power. The engineers will be able to more precisely and predictively manage electricity production, reducing the need to build costly secondary power plants. The distribution system routes power from utilities to residential and commercial & industrial (C&I) customers through power lines, switches and transformers. The utilities typically rely on complex power distribution schemes and manual switching methods, to keep power flowing to the customers. Any break in the system, like storms, bad weather, or certain changes in electricity demands, can lead to power outages. The smart grid distribution intelligence counters this fluctuation by automatically identifying the problems, and rerouting and restoring power delivery. The utilities can further use the distribution intelligence to predict and manage electricity usage with the cooperation of customers, leading to lower production costs. The charging of a plug-in Electric Vehicle (EV) can be managed over Home Area Network (HAN). The HAN can manage the electricity across the households and prioritize between electric vehicle and other appliances, to manage electricity usage, and reduce cost. With smart grid technologies and consumer participation, the utilities can more easily handle the increased demand for power to run the electric vehicles and ensure that the charging needs are met. By adding more plug-in electric vehicles to the grid, the utility companies have the capacity to reduce the fuel cost, lower the dependency on foreign oil and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • • The definition of smart grid, as per SmartGrid.gov:

    “The Smart Grid is a developing network of transmission lines, equipment, controls and new technologies working together to respond immediately to our 21st century demand for electricity.”
  • • It is easy to take electricity for granted, but, modern life would not be possible without it. To keep it going, we need more efficient ways to manage electricity. For over 100 years, coal and fossil fuels have been used by the power plants, to produce the electricity that the customers use daily. The grid is a network of power lines and substations that carry electricity from power plants to residential and commercial & industrial (C&I) customers. The present day grid has problems and needs updating and running below capacity. When power lines break, or power plants cannot produce enough power, power outages can occur, which may eventually cause fatalities. At the same time, today’s grid often relies to a single power source and does not provide detailed information on the customer’s usage, making electricity difficult to manage. To address these problems in the past, initially there were discussions to build new power plants. Now, the utilities can work towards sustainability and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels by using a smart grid. The smart grid means adding sensors and latest technology and software to the existing grid that would give the utilities and its customers’ new information that would help them to understand and react to changes quickly. Example: let us think a tree falls on a power lines and several homes become powerless. With the current grid, the utilities can physically reroute the power, which takes time. With the smart grid, sensors and softwares would detect and immediately reroute the power round the problem area, limiting the issue to fewer homes. There is another point to consider for smart grid – the price of electricity changes throughout the day, based on the peak demand. The price is expensive at peak hours and cheap at night. With new smart meters at home, the customers can set their smart appliances – like washers n driers to run when power is cheap. This provides more control of energy usage, which reflects in more controlled energy bill and helps prevent power outages at peak hours of the day. The smart grid also demonstrates the new ways to use renewable energy. Power generation can now be distributed across multiple sources like wind and solar so that the system is more stable and efficient. It is this ability to communicate and mange electricity that makes the grid “smart” and helps the customers reduce burning more fossil fuels in future. The smart grid is still on just its initial stages of implementation, but, with the help of this technology, the customers would be able to reduce energy bill, create a green and happy environment and happy economy by making more informed decision on how they use electricity.

  • • In 1980, an average American home used 3 electronic devices. Today, we use an average of 25 electronic devices. California’s massive electricity generation system produces more than 296,000 gigawatt hours each year. And since 1970, the number of households in California has almost doubled from 6.5 million to 12.5 million. With the ongoing growth in energy demand and electricity use, it is becoming increasingly important for us to modernize the electric grid so we can manage our energy more efficiently. The current electric grid was originally designed for the way we used to use energy – basically a one-way communication that sends energy from the utilities (source) to the customer’s home (destination) with the main purpose of powering their lights and a few devices. The current grid is also limited in how it can incorporate clean energy sources like wind and solar power. With more people using more electronics, we will need even more energy in the future, which means becoming more efficient about how we use energy today. One way to make the normal grid act as a smart grid is to use a smart meter. It is an electronic device, that connects the customer’s home to the electric grid, and allows the customers and the utilities to monitor the energy usage. By this detailed monitoring, the customers can take better decision and a greater control of energy costs. The smart meter connects the customer’s home with the utilities’ electric grid with the two-way communication. This helps manage the demand on the grid and increase service reliability. In residences and business places, the smart meter can connect to the smart devices. There could be possibilities that the smart devices like refrigerators, electric vehicles etc. could be programmed to run during off-peak hours, which could save the customer’s money by reducing the energy bill. There are different pricing options when the customers use electricity during off-peak hours. A load in washing machine while watching a night games could cost much less than the same running in day during peak hours. When the customers use reducing the energy usage during the peak hours, everybody gets benefitted. It is the first step towards turning a grid into an intelligent, integrated network. The smart grid also brings renewable energy sources like solar and wind into the grid, which moves us away from using the traditional energy sources like coal, and the nullifying the need to build more power plants. Using the wind or sun as a source of energy helps conserve resources, protects our environment, and saves energy and reduce monthly utility bill. Introducing clean, renewable energy sources into the market will reduce the carbon footprint and will demonstrate sound environmental leadership.

One concise definition of Smart Grid:

With all above points in mind, here is a simple, concrete definition of Smart Grid:

A Smart Grid is a modernized electrical grid, consisting of smart meters, smart appliances, sensors, renewable energy resources (like wind and solar energy), energy efficient resources, transmission lines, equipments, controls, transformers, introducing a two-way communication where electricity and information can be exchanged between the utilities and its customers, resulting in a responsive and resilient energy delivery network, providing the customers a safer, more reliable, sustainable and flexible energy services, a predictive analysis, better outage management, contributing to minimize the world pollution by using renewable energy sources, leading to fewer greenhouse gas emissions, helping the utilities to manage and moderate the energy usage and reduce the operating cost.

Smart Grid Diagram:

Key Benefits of Smart Grid:

  • • Control over energy usage and cost: greater control over the customers’ energy use and costs by allowing them to monitor their energy use online and determine which activities are contributing to their bills. The customers can see the forecasted energy usage and forecasted bill, based on their current usage with helpful tips and guidelines on how to reduce energy usage and save money.

  • • Getting Notifications / Alerts: The customers’ get notified via email, sms, or over the phone about certain events like higher energy use during peak times, use of electricity moving to a higher cost tier etc.

  • • More reliable power: Building a smarter grid will help the utilities achieve a more reliable power grid and revolutionize energy use for generations to follow. The smart grid will allow the utilities to quickly identify outages and resolve other service problems—in many cases without a visit to your home or business. The smart grid will use technologies to detect the fault quickly and allow self-healing of the network without the intervention of technicians.

  • • Renewable energy sources: Using the wind or sun as a source of energy helps conserve resources, protects our environment, and saves energy and reduce monthly utility bill. Introducing clean, renewable energy sources into the market will create clean power, free of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, which will eventually reduce the carbon footprint.

  • • Energy Efficiency: Numerous programs like Demand Side Management (DSM), Demand Response (DR) will make an improvement in energy efficiency from the smart grid deployment. The ultimate objective is to reduce the reduce energy usage during peak hours, better utilization of generators, and lowering the electricity prices. Adequate information about the grid will allow the operators to buy energy from more efficient energy sources, maximizing the grid asset.

  • • Smart Devices and Smart Homes: Inside the smart home, a Home Area Network (HAN) can connect the list of smart appliances, thermostat and other electric devices to an energy management system. In future, the customers will be able to use a broadband connection to control exactly when and how our appliances use energy—from anywhere.

  • • Electric Vehicles: Electric vehicles bring with them reduced greenhouse gas emissions and eliminating the fossil fuel dependency. A smart grid is required to accommodate the gradually increasing number of EV(s). Smart grid communications with electric vehicles can minimize recharging costs and help stabilize the grid.

  • • Economic: Leveraging the new smart grid technology will create more jobs with a positive economic impact. The jobs will be related to new hardware manufacturing, software development, deployment and maintenance etc.

Glossary:

Term

Description

C&I

Commercial & Industrial

DSM

Demand Side Management

DR

Demand Response

EV

Electric Vehicle

HAN

Home Area Network

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debsankar Pramanik's picture
Thank Debsankar for the Post!
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