Introduction to Smart Grids

Most of the world existing electricity power systems that have been in existence for years now will soon reach their limitations. The majority of those traditional electricity power grids are neither designed in purpose to comply with rapidly climate changes and the demand for a high energy-efficiency ubiquitous power supply nor use the latest technologies. Smart Grids or modern grids use new technologies to reduce the environmental impact of power grids, increase energy conservation, efficiency, as well as renewable energy utilization.

Smart Grid is essentially an improved electricity supply chain that runs from a major power plant all the way inside the consumer’s home. Generating electricity (using wind energy, nuclear energy, coal, hydro, natural gas, or a variety of other resources) requires thousands of power stations. These generating stations produce electricity at a certain electrical voltage, which can then be increased to very high voltages to increase the efficiency of power transmission over long distances. Once this electrical power gets near your town or city, the electrical voltage is decreased in a utility substation to a lower voltage suitable for homes, offices, shopping malls etc. This power enters consumer homes through an electrical meter, which is also used for billing details.

Since such grids have been around for so many years, they are getting won out are finding it difficult to manage the demands put on power grids by rapid advancements in the types of electrical appliances being used and the pressure of increasing population. As a result, electrical grids are becoming more fragile, less reliable and less efficient. Smart Grids can help significantly increases the efficiency of the entire electrical delivery system. Smart Grids can increase reliability, and also reduce energy in the delivery process thereby reducing greenhouse house emissions.

The basic concept of Smart Grid is to add monitoring, analysis, control, and communication capabilities to a country’s electrical delivery system to maximize the throughput of the system while reducing the energy consumption. The Smart Grid will allow utilities to move electricity around the system as efficiency and economically as possible. It will also allow the homeowner and business to use electricity as economically as possible. Consumers will have the choice and flexibility to manage their electrical usage while minimizing costs.

Smart Grid builds on many of the technologies already used by electric utilities but adds communication and control capabilities that will optimize the operation of the entire electrical grid. For example, if there's a breakdown at a local substation, the utility service provider usually finds out when customers call to complain. Placing a networked sensor inside a transformer or along wires could locate and report a problem, or even prevent it from happening in the first place. Consumers get a glimpse of their energy consumption only when the bills come, and by then it’s too late to save. Smart Grids can provide more detailed information through home energy-monitoring tools. These can be small displays or Web-based programs that give a real-time view of how much energy is being used, which are the appliances consuming most power and so on. This would reduce bills by at least five percent, and will also help conserve natural resources.

Some environmental benefits of Smart Grids are:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Efficient load management
  • Efficient distributed power generation
  • ┬áStabilized power consumption
  • Clean power market
  • Consumer incentive for conservation
  • Consumer penalties for misuse
  • Intelligent grid management
  • Grid-friendly technology
  • Optimized power consumption
  • Reduced wastage
  • Reduced air pollution

Large companies such as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Google have already established serious initiatives in providing the technology backbone and network equipment for Smart Grids. However, implementation of Smart Grids needs to clear several hurdles before it can become a widespread resource. The key barriers to Smart Grids are the costs involved in the initial equipment and technology costs, the costs of replacing legacy systems, consumer acceptance, government regulations, complicated partnership and unresolved security issues.

Smart Grids offer opportunities for utilities and consumers to wisely manage the energy consumption by the usage of advanced metering infrastructure and dual-way and real time communication. It also provides opportunities to wisely manage the fuel resources by potentially reducing the national need for additional generation sources, better integrating renewable and non-renewable generation sources into the grid operations, reducing outages and cascading problems, and enabling consumers to better manage their energy consumption. A Smart Grid can be a mechanism for achieving the worldwide goals in the areas of energy security, climate change, grid reliability, economic growth, and national competitiveness.

 

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