Smart Grid: The future of Energy

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We live in a fast paced world, a world which is advancing at breakneck speed and until a few years ago, we neglected the impact caused by us on the environment. But, things are changing now, conservation and protection of the environment has become a priority for many of us and one of our deepest concerns. Every day we notice the changes in our climate and wonder what can we do to protect our home – the Earth. Smart Grid technology is one of the many efforts taken to preserve the environment and has been gaining a lot of momentum lately.

So the first question we ask – What is Smart Grid?

First of all, the term “grid” refers to the networks of power distribution. A grid consists of a network from the power generation plant to the consumer and includes all the equipment required for the distribution of power such as wires, substations, transformers and more.

The term “smart grid” is a technology being used to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century, using computer-based remote control and automation. Computer processing has been used in other technologies for decades, and it has recently begun being used to bring life to smart grid systems. In other words, smart grids are being deployed to computerize the electricity distribution grid.

Smart grids are being used in electrical networks, from power plants all the way up to the homes and businesses of the consumers using electricity. The smart grid gathers information about the behavior of the supplier and the consumer and acts on the information in an automated fashion to improve the reliability, efficiency and sustainability of energy production and distribution.

 

Basic working of a smart grid

The smart grid consists of a central computer, which is connected to all the devices in the network via a two-way digital communication channel. Each device on the network can be equipped with sensors or an entire household can have a smart meter to gather information on energy usage and relay it back to the central computer through the communication where the data can be acted upon by the computer.

This automation in the energy grid can bring in many features. Some of which are listed below:-

  • Reliability: Smart grids can employ technologies like state estimation, which improve the fault detection in a network and also enable ‘self-healing’ of a network in case a fault occurs, unlike traditional electricity network grids where failing of a network would result in loss of power and would have to be fixed manually.
  • Efficiency: A smart grid network can bring about efficiency into a network in mainly two ways
  • Load balancing: The total load connected to the central computer of a network can vary at any time of the day. For example, if a popular movie is being aired on television, it will prompt millions of people to switch on their TVs, thus resulting in millions of televisions drawing power instantly. To manage the sudden increase in demand of electricity, the smart grid can warn all individual TVs or another larger consumer to reduce the load while it balances the load in the network.
  • Peak Leveling and time of use pricing: To reduce usage of energy during peak hours periods, metering technologies along with smart grid can inform the smart devices at home or business when the energy demand is high and track how much energy is used and when. Also, the electric companies can communicate with devices directly to reduce usage of electricity and prevent overloading. To make the users consume less energy during peak hours, prices of electricity are raised during that time and reduced during low demand periods.

So how is smart grid beneficial for the environment?

One of the most important benefits of using smart grids is its sustainability. Smart grids allow greater penetration of highly variable renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power, even without the use of storage of the energy generated from these sources. Since wind and solar energy are not reliable enough, as a simple climate change can affect the power being generated resulting in an unstable power output and thus cannot be incorporated with present grid networks where constant power output in necessary. But with smart grid, the output of more controllable and constant sources of power such as hydroelectric turbines or gas turbines can be lowered manually or automatically by the central computer and is compensated for, with power being generated from solar or wind farms as and when it is available, to maintain a constant overall power output.

 

What’s in it for us and our role in preserving the environment.

Along with being beneficial for the environment, smart grid offers benefits to us consumers as well. Smart grid along with smart metering technologies enables us to keep track of how much energy we are using and where is the energy being used in real time. A device installed at home or at business will keep us informed about our power consumption in addition to letting us know when the energy demand is high amounting to higher prices. This will allow us to cut back on energy consumption thus saving our money as well as conserving energy.

Places where Smart Grid technology has been deployed

Smart grid technology was deployed in Italy in 2005. Since then it has been deployed in various states of the Unite States of America, the United Kingdom, and China.

LG THINQ Grid Aware (Smart) Appliances

Smart grid technology is one of the leading innovations in environment preservation and has paved the way for many more to develop such as smart meters and grid aware appliances, to name a few. In this day and age, we need to do all we can to preserve our environment, to go green and smart grid surely takes a firm step in that direction.

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