Getting Smart about Power: The Smart Grid

By admin
January 10, 2013

Crumbling “once super” highways, bridges seriously in need of repair and expansion, water systems stretched to the breaking point to provide for an ever-burgeoning population, this is the reality faced by our city planners, public works and transportation departments across the country. But what about the power grid? The truth is, electric power utilities are facing the most serious crisis since their inception more than a century ago. Aging infrastructure, increasing peak demand for electricity and rising concerns for the industry’s environmental impact have brought the power grid to the forefront of the debate over the need for a power grid overhaul vs. already swollen budgets and crippling national debt. Could the smart grid be the solution for both sides of the argument?

Let’s consider a power scenario that could be in our not so distant future…

…You’ve just awakened and already your house is planning its day. Your appliances are communicating to you (perhaps by smart phone app), to each other, and also to the electrical grid, checking on prices and on the availability of clean electricity.

…Your rooftop solar electric panels have checked the weather forecast to calculate how much energy they’ll produce. They’ve told the dishwasher that the sun is shining so it can go ahead and kick on (when a cloud passes, the panels tell it to briefly cool down).

…The garden sprinklers know that water supplies are tight, so they won’t turn on until midnight. They’ve also detected a leak and arranged to have it repaired.

…Your plug-in hybrid car knows when there’s extra solar power or cheap, carbon-free wind power on the grid, and that’s when it recharges itself for the next day’s commute.

…In the afternoon, as temperatures and electricity demand climb, the solar panels sell electricity back to the electric company for a premium.

…Grid managers cut a deal with the freezer: they pay it (and innumerable other freezers in town) to postpone defrosting. That helps the grid meet demand spikes without cranking up a fossil fuel power plant.

An IP-based smart grid of the future, could be one of humanity’s boldest visions. It could turn the current electrical network that has thousands of transmission substations, large substations for distribution, and public and private owners into a shared, interconnected network that communicates intelligently and works efficiently. Smart grid technologies will enable energy conservation, increased operational efficiencies and a more balanced and sustainable mix of energy sources to power our world of the future.

Sources:: “Powering Our Future – The Coming Energy Revolution” – Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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