Lots of work to do on smart grid; it’s expensive and some things haven’t yet been invented.
The “smart grid” or “Intelligent Utility”, which is receiving a tremendous amount of press and promotion from the federal government on down is a very good idea. A self-healing grid that can incorporate distributed generation and a lot of other changes probably lies in the U.S. future, if we as a nation and an industry can come up with the money to pay for it, a big IF!
I was at Sierra Energy Group/Energy Central’s annual Knowledge conference of CIOs last week and CIOs generally agree with the paragraph above. However, like me, they are concerned about the funding issue. It is going to cost a tremendous amount of money and right now no one knows where all that money will come from unless the general public is prepared to pay much higher rates for electricity—estimates range from 25% more to 300% or more, depending on who is counting.
There also is the issue that some technologies needed to enable the smart grid haven’t even yet been invented. The good news is that people are working on that problem. I had occasion a couple of weeks ago to look at one such technology. It is a “Distributed Energy Resource Information Center (DERIC). What a DERIC does is “enable grid-wide energy generation data” in real time, or near real time.
Everyone knows that wind power, solar power and other renewable energy sources are intermittent and cannot substitute for base load. However, when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, they can help. There also are other sources of distributed generation, including commercial and industrial facilities that have their own generation sources, battery storage, etc. etc. To date, utilities really have no way of really knowing in real time what is out there, when it is available and at what load factor. The DERIC promises to solve that problem by linking information from all distributed generation sources through open APIs to allow efficient operation and strategic planning for a smart grid.
Under development by Smith Energy Company, Cambridge, MA, (www.smithenergyco.com) DERIC would solve one of the problems the smart grid faces. It would serve as a software-as-service platform (at pretty reasonable rates, as described to me) to aggregate, analyze and present energy generation information from distributed sources. The platform would allow “regulatory agencies, grid managers, and load-serving entities to view real-time generation across their systems for hour-ahead and day ahead planning." It would provide a single platform for DG in any service territory, “eliminating the time and costs of developing hundreds of applications between each DG installer/developer and the regulated entities in whose territories they operate”.
DERIC isn't yet ready for prime-time, but it is representative of the kind of thinking and development work that is going to have to be done if this thing (smart grid) is going to get off the ground. It falls into the category of one of those things that haven't yet even been invented. People are working on them.