How Essential is the Smart Grid?
Many argue that Smart Grid is no capable enough to significantly reduce the excessive T&D energy losses. And some argue that the reduction is quite uneconomical compared to the cost of integrating smart grid equipment to decades old grids. Many consider Smart Grid as an incapable innovation especially with the conventional system of power Generation, Transmission and Distribution. Well considering all these argument many start to wonder how essential the Smart Grid is. And various questions are still un-answered to how does Smart Grid reduce energy waste. Its role in renewable energy integration into conventional energy grid, how could smart grid improve energy consumption efficiency.
Smart grid technologies provide utilities and consumers with real-time knowledge and decision-making tools that will empower them to save energy, resources, money, and the environment. The smart grid is not a product, but rather a collection of hardware and software that works together to make today's grid, well, smarter.
Overlaying the current power infrastructure with smart grid technology is like connecting the Internet to the computer, making an already useful machine much better and providing people with information to make intelligent decisions. Similarly, the smart grid, or the "energy Internet", empowers consumers, businesses and utilities to make smarter energy choices.
1. Could it really reduce energy waste?
Smart grid technologies help improve efficiency by providing the utility with information, so the utility can deliver just what is needed by the consumer and maximize productivity or minimize it depending on the consumption rate. Transmitting more than required power along the lines would expose the lines to more losses, this is due to the complexities of how power is currently delivered.
These losses take place due to the reactive load, or VArs, and also resistive load, all are functions of the length of the power transmission line. Therefore modern intelligent-grids are equipped with sensors and the sensors are incorporated with capacitors.
Adding the sensors and capacitors along the line can help compensate for the losses due to reactive load. Capacitors along the line help produce VArs where they're needed to decrease losses.
2. Does Smart Grid minimize power outages?
Power outages cost the industrialize Economies more than 450billion USD. Power outage cost US economy more than 100billion dollars alone. And outages normally occur as a result of malfunction of power components along the grid. Transformers are key components of an electric grid. A catastrophic failure of a critical transformer would result in power outages in the downstream network and could cause significant economic and environmental challenges.
Smart grid technologies help utilities maximize asset performance and reduce unexpected transformer failure and subsequent power outages through alerts, detection, diagnosis, and prognosis. By monitoring different conditions within the transformer, such as gas levels, smart sensors will detect and report potential problems back to the utility in real-time. The information sent to the utility can be stored and analyzed by advanced software, helping predict and prevent potential transformer failure before it happens.
Smart grid technologies can help intelligently re-route power on the grid to isolate outages and minimize customer impact. Mobile mapping technologies help utilities immediately direct crews to restore power, moving utilities from guessing to knowing.
3. Renewable energy integration into conventional power grid.
Smart grid technologies can help reliably integrate variable renewable energy into the grid. When renewable resources are producing electricity, the possibility of congestion on transmission lines can create a barrier to their full utilization. The variability of renewable sources can also cause challenges. And whenever renewables are offline i.e. the wind doesn't blow or it's a cloudy day -- other power generation will be needed to fill in the gaps.
Fortunately, smart grid technologies can help manage the unpredictability of wind and solar to help alleviate reliability and stability issues caused by power fluctuations. Automated demand response technologies will act as a lever that utilities can pull to help lower demand in the event there is a gap in renewable power generation -- for instance, if the wind stops blowing. To address such contingencies, a utility may incent consumers to opt into programs that allow certain devices (i.e., water heaters) to be temporarily switched off during peak times.
In the future, storage technologies could also help utilities manage the short-term imbalances in the supply and demand of energy, sometimes caused by the fluctuations of a lot of renewable energy. Batteries will store energy during times of excess wind energy production and discharge that energy via smart grid automation technologies when energy demand exceeds supply.
4. Smart metering, Grid automation and monitoring
Smart grid automation technologies, such as distribution management systems and outage management systems, can work in conjunction with smart meters and advanced metering infrastructure to provide real-time knowledge of the grid's status, enabling utilities to prevent trouble before it occurs.
In advanced applications, monitoring and control technologies -- known as fault diagnosis, isolation and restoration -- can help mitigate the problem before deploying a repair crew. Using monitoring and control software, utilities will be able to identify problems on the grid and automatically reroute power to isolate damage and impact. Technically, these technologies help detect and isolate faulted feeder sections by opening and closing the necessary switches to restore power to the healthy feeder section within seconds. Once isolated, crews will immediately be dispatched to correct any problems.
Investing in the smart grid now is a great way to make a "down payment" on the reduction of the global GHG emissions. Improving energy efficiency throughout the grid and increasing the ability of the system to more easily accept non-carbon-based clean energy resources are just two of the ways the smart grid can help now.
Research indicates that carbon emissions could be reduced by 25% in America if smart grid technologies are implemented. If the grid allowed energy production to be just 5% more efficient, the energy savings would equate to eliminating the fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars.
Smart grid technologies will also enable higher percentages of centralized and distributed renewable generation to enter the grid efficiently and reliably so they can become significant contributors to the overall global energy platform, helping us reduce the challenges of outages, increase energy efficiency and defer the need to build more energy and power generation infrastructures. Smart grid Technology is of course an essential part of the solution to the global energy crises.