EMS - Energy Management Systems hardware and software provides real time information on the status of the grid. This helps
out with real time load monitoring, and two-way energy flow.
Distribution Management Service DMS - Data from the EMS is
used by the DMS to operate remote switches.
Alternative Energy Sources - One of the hallmarks of a smart grid
is the inclusion of new energy sources at sites besides the utilities. People can install their own solar panels and wind turbines that can feed power back into the grid.
Thin Film Solar Rocks
The Ampulse Corporation
has developed a method for depositing crystalline silicon on a specialized substrate. The resulting material acts as a single crystal, reducing costs while keeping conversion efficiency at 15%.
The bottom line is even better: production costs as low at $0.50 per Watt!
Testing is underway.
You may not know a smart grid to look at since it is basically an ongoing upgrade of the existing grid. Smart grid technology will help charge EVs. There are five main components at present:
- Integrated communications
- Sensing and measurement
- Advanced components
- Advanced control methods
- Improved interfaces and decision support
There will be eventually be hundreds of individual smart grid
technologies. Below is a summary of the hardware now used
to facilitate the five components above.
Electric Vehicles - Another main point of a smart grid is the use of EVs. The EV pulls about as much power as an entire house, so monitoring is required. In some cases the EV can actually put power back into the grid. This has already been done on a small scale, and GM is now testing larger scale systems.
GIS - Geographic Information Systems technology integrated with GPS is used to pinpoint distribution problems in real time.
Sensors and communications - Advanced sensors feed load information to transmission sources which provide more precise voltages. Voltage control increases efficiency and decreases line losses.
Capacitors - Line losses add up. Capacitors along long transmission lines can store energy for short periods and buffer fluctuations as they do for thousands of other applications.
Transformers - Old transformers are being replaced with high-efficiency amorphous transformers.
Smart meters - New metering can provide consumers with electric cost information as it varies throughout the day, detect outages, and even pay bills. Energy savings may be 10% or more. Several million of these meters have already been installed.
Smart Appliances - Appliances are tuned to work with signals from smart meters. These appliances may draw power during off-peak hours to reduce strain on the grid.
Smart Grid Software
New smart grid hardware requires software to function. Oracle, the well known software giant, is one of the firms providing programs and programming to support smart grid technology. Utilities such as Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), Gas Terra, Pacific Gas & Electric and Sempra Energy now employ Oracle data solutions to facilitate smart grid applications.
Smart meters may be monitored by Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management. The software essentially processes meter data. The company also provides software for utility load profiling on a large (millions of points) scale. This information is vital to the efficient operation of any smart grid.
Digital Communication and Control
Over half of the home power in the USA is taken up by electronics devices. Digital control of these devices could, for instance, shut them off when not in use. Other large devices like EVs could be scheduled to charge during times of grid excess.
Where are the smart grids?
Although you might not know a smart grid from one with an average IQ, they have been under planning and construction for over 10 years.
While there is no one big smart grid yet, there are smaller ones developing. Local utilities are busy installing hardware and software in select locations.
The Chinese Government is planning a nationwide smart grid that will integrate alternative energy with other smart grid elements and components. The effort is to be funded at some 300,000 Yuan ($45 million US) per year for the next 10 years.
The market for smart grid technology looks rosy. In the US, the grid market is expected to grow from $17.3 billion in 2008 to nearly $40 billion in the next few years.
Manufacturers are responding to growth pulses with a plethora of networked devices. Many major appliance makers envision consumers controlling their HVAC, kitchen appliances, and lighting from their TVs, smart phones or PCs.
The Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show displayed blending of consumer electronics and energy sources. The trend is toward smart homes filled with connected devices.
Smart Grid Goals
So what is all this new hardware supposed to do? Here is a list of some of the main goals of new smart grid technologies:
Uninterruptible power supply
Peak load balancing
Integration of alternative power sources
Efficient power transmission
Peak load balancing
Digital monitoring and control capabilities
Security from hackers
Smart Grid Updates
Smart grid technology is under rapid development. Check U.S. government funded developments at smartGrid.gov. Smart grid news is found at Smartgridnews.com.