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Advantages of Smart Grids: IoT Redirecting the Flow of Electricity

image credit: Smart Grids

In the current world, it is impossible to think of a day without electricity. It has become an essential commodity that powers up our living in a way that no other resource does. In fact, in order to meet the annual demand of electricity globally, it would require us to burn 24 billion tons of coal!

With an ever-growing population and depletion in the size of our renewable reserves, it is clearly not possible to cater to everyone’s electricity requirements. It is now high time to develop efficient energy management systems and integrate them with robust electricity distribution networks to make power available for everyone.

Smart Grids are a modern form of conventional power grids that offers smoother and efficient power supply. It uses a 2-way dialogue system that allows utility companies to easily monitor electricity consumption and thus manage the electricity needs of the end consumers.

Before we explore the benefits of Smart Grids, let us understand the limitations of the conventional power grids that led to the development of Smart Grids.

Problems with Traditional Power Grids:

The traditional power grids were developed many years ago when electricity requirements were minimal. Power generation systems were set up in localized areas that provided electricity to nearby communities for small energy requirements. Grids at that time were designed to deliver electricity to the consumer’s homes and then bill them once a month based on their consumption.

This one-way interaction of power grids was sufficient to manage the energy demand at that time. However, the ever-growing electricity needs require a better distribution system that can supply energy for the current requirements.

The Advent of Smart Grids:

As we discussed above, Smart Grids are the application of IoT that allows utilities and its customers to exchange information and electricity. It is a network of communications, computers, controls, automation, and other new technologies that are working together to make energy production and distribution more efficient, reliable, safer, and greener.

These grids allow to and fro data sharing between power generation companies, distribution centers, and end consumers. This two-way interaction facilitates the flow of smooth and uninterrupted flow of electricity in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Following are some advantages that smart grid offers in energy distribution:

  • Smart meters managing electricity usage at home:

Smart Meters are devices that measure electricity consumption at home and send it directly to the supplier. This allows power generation companies to measure demand in different localities and identify time periods when electricity consumption is at its maximum or minimum in that locality.

A smart meter can be easily integrated into a desktop or even a television. The information received by the meter from the supplier can be displayed on these devices that will help the consumer to manage the electricity consumption. The consumer can also use these devices to track and measure the power consumed by individual appliances at his/her home.

  • Sustaining power supply from renewable resources:

Renewable resources like solar and wind are a growing and sustainable source of electric power. Along with their universal and everlasting presence, these resources have the ability to produce clean and carbon-free electricity.

Even though renewable resources of energy offer multiple benefits, their application is still limited as they depend completely on nature and weather conditions. They also offer complexity to the existing grid systems as these systems are optimized for non-renewable resources. IoT powered smart grids offer required data and automation to solar and wind farms to deliver electricity onto the grids and optimize their use.

The smart grids can even shift the flow of energy from one power generation source to another. For example, in case of a clear sunny day, solar farms can be used to manage maximum energy requirements, while at night the smart grids will transfer the flow of energy to power plants.

  • Lowers operational cost and wastage at peak hours:

Smart grids have enabled the engagement of end consumers to keep up with constantly changing power demands. Utility providers need to switch on/off the standby power plants in order to manage the electricity load at peak hours. Electricity is more expensive during these periods as standby plants are often less efficient than the main powerhouse.

With consumer engagement in the power distribution system, the electricity suppliers can cut operational costs. Smart grids and meters measure electricity consumption in a locality in real-time which is then stored in a cloud platform. This data after being processed through predictive analytics enables the supplier to determine the peak times. This accurate estimate will help the utilities to manage the load on the plant easily and thus reduce operational costs.

This cost can even be reduced further if the end consumers can defer using their heavy appliances during peak hours. To reduce energy wastage, the amount of energy produced at the power plants should equal the energy used by the end consumers. With real-time monitoring, the utilities can measure the load at the system and thus adjust the production of electricity accordingly.

  • Outage and fluctuation detection:

Power lines, switches, and transformers are used by a distribution system to supply electricity from the utilities to a locality.  To keep this power flowing, the utilities rely on complex power distribution schemes and manual switching. Sudden breakdown of these distribution centers caused due to bad weather conditions or power fluctuation can break the flow of electricity to the consumers.

Smart Grids can automatically detect the problems and reroute the energy supply to these localities. With the data gathered from its customers, the utilities can use the distribution intelligence to predict and manage electricity usage and further reduce production costs.

On a Concluding Note:

The traditional power grid systems have evolved to cater to the ever-growing requirements of electricity. The smart grid is a phenomenal application of IoT that is assisting utilities to provide uninterrupted electricity to the end consumers. Its application is empowering the usage of renewable energy resources and helping power generation companies to reduce operational costs. The consumers can also use this system to maintain their energy consumption further enabling them to reduce their electricity bills.

Sanjeev Verma's picture
Thank Sanjeev for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 30, 2019

Thanks for sharing, Sanjeev.

The traditional power grid systems have evolved to cater to the ever-growing requirements of electricity. The smart grid is a phenomenal application of IoT that is assisting utilities to provide uninterrupted electricity to the end consumers.

Given that the new tech is 'fighting,' if you will, against to gain ground on the legacy strategies and technology already in play, what are the best ways to ensure smart grids get their fair shake? The fear of stranded assets and the paralysis of 'but we've always done things this way' are real obstacles, sometimes

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