Quality and Reliability -- Because these issues are not part of the Smart Grid?

Joao Gomes | Oct 05, 2010

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The Quality and Reliability of electric power delivered to the consumer not has been the object of attention in the area of Smart Grid. This is a subject of difficult visibility for the consumer, the quality of electricity is not readily visible.

There are rules and procedures established quite accurately by Regulatory Agencies and is also well known for Utilities, but their verification is left behind by the agencies because they are never driven by consumers. Why not take advantage of the reform of network and establish new procedures for checking the quality of energy. I believe all actors involved -- Utilities and Consumers -- would gain customers with improved service and Utilities with more effective protection of its main asset -- "Substation, Feeders, Transformers and Wiring".

Levels of voltage, power surges, spikes, power factor, grounding, etc. These issues are of extreme importance to a smart network, but matters are rarely mentioned in current discussions. A poorly grounded network endangers the safety of consumers and all applications that are connected to the network. Inadequate energy levels are quite common especially during "Peak Hours", limiting the power of equipment that are demanding energy, reducing the useful life of equipment. All low voltage network must necessarily be grounded and protected with fuses and varistors, an insecure network could endanger his own life of consumer.

The "Power Factor" is extremely important in a distribution network and should occupy an important space in power distribution system, and actions must be taken in the Substations, Feeders and Transformers. A low "Power Factor" has an important impact on the cost of KWh and many other assets of the distribution network. "Active and Reactive Energy" is another matter of great importance.

With the development and deployment of all the tools involved in the Smart Grid, we have a great chance to make this happen, this is an area of business very little explored. The quality of energy is not checked regularly anywhere in the world, the quality of energy we use is invariably bad. Constantly equipment residential consumers and small businesses are burned or have its useful life diminished, so the consumer is left to complain and pay the bill. It is very difficult and time consuming it can prove that the problem is the energy that enters your home.

Large energy consumers get the Utilities compensation for own investment to maintain power quality at satisfactory levels. With the implementation of Smart Grid, many electronic equipment that use microcontrollers are connected 24 hours to electric network, microcontrollers and "firmware" are very sensitive to energy quality, and this could take the spotlight on this issue. Personally I've had many problems with microcontrollers and firmware, and had to spend time and money to solve the problem.

Consumers should know what the quality of energy that he is buying and the risks involved. Why not take advantage of consumer engagement in the area of "Smart Grid" and make these issues -- very technical -- better known and understood?

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Comments

Since I live in a very rural area, where our modern transmission line over the mountains was installed in 1936 (the copper backup was installed in 1908), I am very familiar with the effects of poor power Quality & Relibility. Our problems are almost entirely due to poor transmission, as the distribution lines are much more modern, e.g., from the 1970's and later. The substation switching equipment is very modern (1990's).

Although many confuse the terms and even Deming considered Reliability to be a subset of Quality, you should differentiate between the Quality components needing improvement and the Reliability components needing improvement, in your very appropriate article.

I consider voltage level, power factor, frequency control, and phase alignment to be Quality components. Voltage sags, outages, surges, are reliability components.

In our location, we have sags and outages (typically < 5 seconds) several times per week, so our reliability is poor. However, the voltage level, i.e., a nominal 240 Vac is fairly stable, the power factor is fairly stable (~ 92%), and the frequency never varies from 60 Hz. One may suggest the absolute value of the voltage or power factor is not ideal, but the lack of variation is a better indicator of quality.

Smart metering could quantify "fairly stable" and provide an excellent quality indice. The smart meter could also record sags and outages and provide a reliability indice. I have my own power factor improvement system, but a quantification of incoming power factor would be very helpful. Since we have to reset clocks, etc. several times per week, we can readily monitor reliability, although when a sag burns up a well pump, having a measured value would help.

Maybe with smart metering results, the transmission could be improved enough that we would not have to use a voltage regulator for all electronic equipment.