Tom Casey, the chief executive of Current Group, a company that develops smart grid technology, talks about how the next generation of power grids will work.
'Less power to deliver better results'
q What is a smart grid? a A smart grid in the most general terms is the application of IT technology to the electric power system. Specifically it involves the installation of sensors on the lines of the electric power grid itself. These sensors are embedded with chips that detect information on the operation and performance of the grid - such measurements as voltage and current. The sensors then analyse that information to determine what is significant - for example is voltage running too high, or too low.
How does it work? When the sensors detect significant information they communicate that data back to a central analytics engine, which is usually a software system. That system will analyse the data and determine what is wrong and what should be done to improve performance of the grid. For example, in a case where we have too high voltage, the software would detect this and would instruct one of the devices already installed on the grid to lower voltage, thereby saving generated power and emissions.
What are the benefits? There are three. The first is efficiency, which entails the utility's use of less power to deliver the same or better levels of service to their customers. It reduces costs and reduces emissions. The second category is reliability. A smart grid will detect when the assets on a grid are beginning to fail or are declining in performance, will identify them so the utility can repair them or replace them before there is an actual outage. The smart grid will also detect an outage and locate it precisely, allowing the utility to respond to it very quickly. The smart grid will allow a utility to isolate the impact of an outage so fewer customers are affected when there is a power failure. The final category is edge integration, which can be anything from reading a smart meter to interacting with the customer's in-home management system, to rooftop solar panels, to electric vehicles, all of which will require interaction with the grid to be successful.