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Smart Grid Technology and Applications

[This Beijing dispatch center controls most of China’s ultrahigh-voltage lines and monitors renewable energy use - State Grid Corp. of China]

- Overview

A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses digital technology to monitor and control electricity usage. It's an improvement on the 20th century electrical grid, which was designed when electricity needs were simple. 

The definition of a smart grid was first provided by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The Act enumerates 10 components, the basic theme of which is that digital processing and two-way communication with the resulting data flow and information management is what makes the grid smart. 

Like the Internet, a smart grid has many components, including controls, computers, automation, and new technologies and devices that work together, but in the case of a smart grid, these technologies will work with the grid to meet the demands of our rapidly changing electricity needs. 

Some technologies used in smart grids include: 

  • Power/current sensors
  • Controls
  • Data centers
  • Smart meters
  • Big data
  • Edge computing
  • 5G
  • Wide area wireless communication technology


- What is a Smart Grid?

Smart grids use digital tools, sensors, and software to: 

  • Match the supply and demand of electricity in real time
  • Minimize costs
  • Maintain the stability and reliability of the grid
  • Improve the efficiency of the traditional grid
  • Enhance the use of energy produced through production systems that are more respectful of the planet, such as wind and solar power

Smart grids have several features, including: 

  • Real-time monitoring
  • Automated outage management and faster restoration
  • Dynamic pricing mechanisms
  • Better communication between consumers and electricity providers, particularly through the use of smart meters
  • The ability to track electricity use and cost in real time
  • The ability to monitor/control residential devices that are noncritical during periods of peak power consumption

The U.S. Congress first defined the smart grid in 2007 when it passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.


- Smart Grid Applications

Smart grid applications include: 

  • Power quality: Smart grids work to ensure the highest quality of electricity supplied to consumers. This includes maintaining a stable voltage quality and a high power factor.
  • Renewable integration: Smart grids can integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. Utilities can use digital technologies to monitor and manage the output of these sources.
  • Substation automation: Smart grid applications include substation automation, which allows remote monitoring and control of intelligent electronic devices (IEDs). This can improve power grid reliability and visibility, and lower operational costs.
  • Energy analytics: Smart grid infrastructure focuses on grid analytics, which includes load forecasting. This helps power and utilities companies plan their resources and service consumer demands.
  • Voltage control: Smart grid technology is driving demand for voltage sensors that can monitor and control voltage in real-time. These sensors are used to improve the efficiency and reliability of power distribution systems.
  • Connectivity technologies: Smart grid network systems use modern connectivity technologies to supply power. They also use artificial intelligence to automate and regulate different components, such as smart meters, smart appliances, and green energy resources.


- The Major Components of A Smart Grid

It is important to ensure that a smart grid is a secure smart grid that includes many technologies that improve real-time situational awareness and support renewable energy and system automation to improve reliability, efficiency capabilities, and grid security. 

Utilities are using many secure communication solutions to support the latest smart grid applications, including advanced metering infrastructure, distribution automation, voltage optimization and substation automation. 

The 10 components encompass all elements of the power system, including loads, distribution, transmission, and generation, and are related to the use of renewable energy, demand-side management, energy storage, peak shaving, and power conditioning. 

The system is considered intelligent because the communication technology enables self-healing through sensing capabilities with heavy monitoring, as well as various computer controls that, when combined, provide an automatic system for changes in load, generation and equipment Response, whenever the reason for stopping the service.


- The Benefits of an Electric Grid

An electrical grid is an interconnected system that maintains an instantaneous balance between supply and demand (generation and load) while transferring electricity from generation sources to customers. Since it is difficult to store large amounts of electricity, the amount of electricity generated and fed into the system must be carefully matched to the load to keep the system running. 

The level of electricity demand in any one region is so variable that it is more efficient to combine the demands of many sites into an overall regional load. The area electrical load can then be met by controlling and managing the output of a set of generators for optimum performance. 

In part, the grid was developed to allow generators to provide backup to each other and share the load. The grid also allows generators to be brought closer to resources (e.g. fuel supply, water, available land) and to deliver electricity to different load centers through the transmission and distribution network. 

Utility-scale solar and wind power plants are conceptually similar to traditional generators -- they generate electricity where the necessary resources are located, often in remote areas where fuel (sun or wind) is most abundant. 

These attributes—consolidating variable individual loads into more predictable regional loads, siting plants close to their resource base, and extensive transmission lines -- help grids deliver power with good reliability and low cost.


- What Makes a Grid “Smart?”

The transmission grid interconnects power generation facilities with distribution substations. Local distribution grids are designed to supply power to end users and usually have a radial structure. While some components of the grid need to be retrofitted, the focus of current redesign efforts is not the physical structure of the grid; it is the informatics component that should bring the grid to a new level of intelligence. Therefore, the interactive combination of information technology and transmission system creates a smart grid system. 

Digital technologies that allow two-way communication between utilities and their customers, as well as sensing along transmission lines, are making the grid smart. Like the Internet, the smart grid will be made up of controls, computers, automation, and new technologies and devices, but in this case, these technologies will work with the grid to digitally respond to our rapidly changing electricity needs.  

(Smart Grid Communications, NIST)

- The Smart Grid is Evolving

A smart grid will consist of millions of components and parts - controls, computers, power lines, and new technologies and equipment. It will take some time for all technologies to be perfected, equipment to be installed, and systems to be tested before going live. 

And it's not going to happen all at once - the smart grid is gradually evolving over the next decade or so. Once mature, the smart grid could bring about the same transformations that the internet has already brought to the way we live, work, play and learn.


- What Does A Smart Grid Do?

A smart grid is an electricity network that uses digital technologies to match supply and demand in real time. Smart grids use sensors, software, and other digital technologies to:

  • Maintain grid reliability and stability
  • Minimize costs
  • Sense and respond to change
  • Keep the grid operational while supplying power
  • Integrate the actions of all users connected to it
  • Ensure a sustainable power system


Smart grids can: 

  • Reduce operating costs for utilities by deferring electricity usage away from peak hours
  • Have appliances and devices run at other times
  • More evenly distribute electricity production throughout the day
  • Be more energy efficient
  • Lower the cost for consumers
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions


- Benefits Associated with the Smart Grids

Smart grids represent an unprecedented opportunity to bring the energy industry into a new era of reliability, availability and efficiency that will contribute to our economic and environmental health. During the transition, testing, technology improvements, consumer education, standards and regulation development, and information sharing between projects are critical to ensure our vision of the smart grid becomes a reality. 

Benefits associated with the smart grid include:

  • More efficient power transmission
  • Faster power recovery after power disruption
  • Lower operating and administrative costs for utilities and ultimately lower electricity costs for consumers
  • Reduce peak demand, which will also help lower electricity bills
  • Increased integration of large-scale renewable energy systems
  • Better integration of customer-owned power generation systems, including renewable energy systems
  • Improve security

- Wireless 5G and Smart Grid

5G can improve smart grid technologies by supporting increased connectivity and automation. 5G's ultra-low latency and high reliability are instrumental in the development and realization of smart grids. 5G can also:

  • Improve energy management: 5G can enable more efficient energy management and enhanced distribution.
  • Support many devices and sensors: 5G can support many devices and sensors simultaneously, collecting and analyzing data on various aspects of urban operations.
  • Improve predictive maintenance: 5G can be used for predictive maintenance of different components of power-grid like electrical isolators, transmission lines along electricity grids, LNG/GAS storages.
  • Improve emergency situations: 5G can be used for proactive recovery in emergency situations or surveillance during natural calamity.
  • Improve real-time video surveillance: 5G can be used for real-time video surveillance.
  • Improve V2G charging stations: 5G can help the power system to accommodate distributed renewable energy through V2G charging stations.


- Smart Grids and Wireless sensor Networks

WSNs are a key technology for smart grids, which are advanced electric power grids that use communication and information technologies. 

WSNs are a cost-effective way to monitor, control, measure, and diagnose faults in smart grids. They can also improve the energy efficiency, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of smart grid management. 

WSNs allow customers and utilities to effectively and cost-effectively transfer, monitor, predict, and manage energy usage. WSNs can also improve various aspects of electric power systems, including generation, delivery, and utilization. 

A sensor node in a WSN typically contains the following: Sensors, Memory, Processor, Power supply, Transceiver, Actuator. 

One of the most common sensor network topologies is the star network topology. In this topology, sensor nodes are connected directly to a centralized communication hub, switch, or sink, which is called the central node. 

Some sensors used in smart grids include: Temperature sensors, Pressure sensors, Humidity sensors, Weather stations, Current sensors, Voltage sensors.




[More to come ...]

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