2011
06.08

Smart Grid Lesson 1:  The smart grid will be mostly invisible to consumers.

Most of the “smart” things the new grid will do are beyond the view of customers. One person at Distributech in February said consumers won’t even know “if we do it right.” Performance and efficiency boosters that keep the lights on but are unseen include active network management (find and fix problems), automatic voltage control (maintain with targets), dynamic line rating (line capacities calculated considering weather), reactive power consumption (automatically offsetting heavy loads), and phasor measurement units (high-tech sensors that monitor lots of network performance variables in realtime).

Also beyond consumer view, but felt by the industry, many of the business relationships and regulatory regimes that have existed for decades are due for a major overhaul. Barriers between generators and distributors will have to be lowered or broken down to pave the way for widespread adoption of large- and micro-scale alternative energy sources. New partnerships, coalitions, and alliances will emerge as the boundaries between the various sectors of the utility industry blur with the new “information age.”

3 comments so far

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  1. Is this a series? Looking forward to Lesson 2…
    Personally think solar on homes is ideal not to generate electicity but to reduce heating costs (passive solar), especially in the Northeast US. Reducing demand on the Grid is key. If we added RFID monitoring we could measure it and publish the findings! The customers will notice it in their utility bills but the government hasn’t gotten the message- passive has an ROI!

    Also suggest you add tags and categories to this post for SEO and finadability!

  2. Hi Carol,
    Yes, this will be a seven-part series! Check back over the next two weeks as we plan on posting about two per week.

  3. The “smart grid” is something kind of elusive and confusing to many. All the smartgrid today is a wishlist of needs and wants. The truth is that the current state of things in the power grid is chaotic. The balancing of the power depends on sort of air traffic controllers, but dedicated to electricity. These people work in a highly stressful environment within unmarked buildings without windows that electric utilities own. If the smart grid materializes it will handle this balancing act by itself (with minimal intervention). If the smart grid works very well, it will be able to balance power input from smaller sources such as photo-voltaic solar panels in individual homes. A lot of companies are putting a lot of money into the grid, because they believe it will work. You just have to do a search on “smart grid” and the companies’ names will show up. I believe the state of the technology is not that bad. To balance the energy, they first have to be able to measure such balance… apparently this is done using something called phasor data from phasor measurement units.

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