Smart Grid Technology

A smart grid is an electrical system which includes a variety of operation and energy measures including smart meters, smart appliances, renewable energy resources, and energy efficient resources. Electronic power conditioning and control of the production and distribution of electricity are important aspects of the smart grid.

 

The first official definition of Smart Grid was provided by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA-2007), which was approved by the US Congress in January 2007, with ten characteristics, that can be considered a definition for Smart Grid, as follows:

 

  1. Increased use of digital information and controls technology to improve reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric grid. 
  2. Dynamic optimization of grid operations and resources, with full cyber-security. 
  3. Deployment and integration of distributed resources and generation, including renewable resources. 
  4. Development and incorporation of demand response, demand-side resources, and energy-efficiency resources. 
  5. Deployment of 'smart' technologies (real-time, automated, interactive technologies that optimize the physical operation of appliances and consumer devices) for metering, communications concerning grid operations and status, and distribution automation. 
  6. Integration of 'smart' appliances and consumer devices. 
  7. Deployment and integration of advanced electricity storage and peak-shaving technologies, including plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles, and thermal storage air conditioning. 
  8. Provision to consumers of timely information and control options.
  9. Development of standards for communication and interoperability of appliances and equipment connected to the electric grid, including the infrastructure serving the grid. 
  10. Identification and lowering of unreasonable or unnecessary barriers to adoption of smart grid technologies, practices, and services."

 

 

Features of the smart grid

 

Reliability

The smart grid allows self healing of the network and also improves fault detection, without the intervention of any person. It will ensure reliablility, and make the grid less vulnerable to natural disasters or faults.

 

Flexibility in network topology

Classic grids were designed for one-way flow of electricity, but if a local sub-network generates more power than it is consuming, the reverse flow can raise safety and reliability issues. A smart grid aims to manage these situations through bidirectional energy flows, allowing for distributed generation such as from photovoltaic panels on building roofs, but also charging to/from the batteries of electric cars, wind turbines, pumped hydroelectric power, the use of fuel cells, and other sources.

 

Efficiency

Numerous contributions to overall improvement of the efficiency of energy infrastructure are anticipated from the deployment of smart grid technology, in particular including demand-side management, for example turning off air conditioners during short-term spikes in electricity price.

The overall effect is less redundancy in transmission and distribution lines, and greater utilization of generators, leading to lower power prices.

 

Load adjustment/Load balancing

The total load connected to the power grid can vary significantly over time. Although the total load is the sum of many individual choices of the clients, the overall load is not necessarily stable or slow varying.

For example, if a popular television program starts, millions of televisions will start to draw current instantly. Traditionally, to respond to a rapid increase in power consumption, faster than the start-up time of a large generator, some spare generators are put on a dissipative standby mode. A smart grid may warn all individual television sets, or another larger customer, to reduce the load temporarily (to allow time to start up a larger generator) or continuously (in the case of limited resources). 

 

Sustainability

The improved flexibility of the smart grid permits greater penetration of highly variable renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind power, even without the addition of energy storage. Rapid fluctuations in distributed generation, such as due to cloudy or gusty weather, present significant challenges to power engineers who need to ensure stable power levels through varying the output of the more controllable generators such as gas turbines and hydroelectric generators. Smart grid technology is a necessary condition for very large amounts of renewable electricity on the grid for this reason.

 

Market-enabling

The smart grid allows for systematic communication between suppliers (their energy price) and consumers (their willingness-to-pay), and permits both the suppliers and the consumers to be more flexible and sophisticated in their operational strategies. Only the critical loads will need to pay the peak energy prices, and consumers will be able to be more strategic in when they use energy. Generators with greater flexibility will be able to sell energy strategically for maximum profit, whereas inflexible generators such as base-load steam turbines and wind turbines will receive a varying tariff based on the level of demand and the status of the other generators currently operating.