This, the third installment of our four part article series on the report on the Smart Grid put out by the U.S. Department of Energy that delves into this complex subject matter in considerable detail. The report is titled “The Smart Grid: An Introduction” and is dedicated to the education of all interested members of the public to the nature, challenges and opportunities surrounding the Smart Grid and its implementation.

This installment of our article series covers the DOE reports section that defines what is meant by Smart Grid; what it is and conversely what it is not. It covers the various critical aspects that working together will form the Smart Grid. It goes on to make the argument that emerging technologies, such as smart meters, smart appliances, smart homes, wind power, solar power, plug-in electric hybrid cars,  and so forth, are not to be confused with the Smart Grid itself. They are Smart Grid enabling technologies or technologies that the Smart Grid itself will enable.  It is better to distinguish them from the Smart Grid.  The Smart Grid is the intermediating network that encompasses the technology that enables us to integrate, interface with, and intelligently control these innovations and others.

It continues with a summary of the DOE Smart Grid report’s “Compare and Contrast: A Grid Where Everything Is Possible” section that outlines the many benefits of creating a smarter grid.

The Smart Grid: What It Is. What It Isn’t.

The electric industry is poised to make the transformation from a centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is less centralized and more consumer-interactive. The move to a smarter grid promises to change the industry’s entire business model and its relationship with all stakeholders, involving and affecting utilities, regulators, energy service providers, technology and automation vendors and all consumers of electric power.

Some of the Smart Grid specifics that this section touches on are:

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) – is an approach to integrating consumers based upon the development of open standards. It provides consumers with the ability to use electricity more efficiently and provides utilities with the ability to detect problems on their systems and operate them more efficiently.

Phasor Measurement Units (PMU) – devices that accurately sample voltage and current many times a second at a given location and are connected to the grid control systems by a seperate information carrying network — either wired or wireless. By offering wide-area situational awareness to grid operators, phasors work to ease congestion and bottlenecks and mitigate – or even prevent – blackouts.

Distributed generation – Distributed generation is the use of small-scale power generation technologies located close to the load being served, capable of lowering costs, improving reliability, reducing emissions and expanding energy options. The Smart Grid will be an automated, widely distributed energy delivery network, that will be characterized by a two-way flow of electricity and information and will be capable of monitoring everything from power plants to customer preferences to individual appliances. It incorporates into the grid the benefits of distributed computing and communications to deliver real-time information and enable the near-instantaneous balance of supply and demand at the device level.

The grid’s problem with peak load. – While supply and demand is a bedrock concept in virtually all other industries, it is one with which the current grid struggles mightily because, as noted, electricity must be consumed the moment it’s generated. Without being able to ascertain demand precisely, at a given time, having the ‘right’ supply available to deal with every contingency is problematic at best. This is particularly true during episodes of peak demand, those times of greatest need for electricity during a particular period.

What the Smart Grid isn’t.

Smart meters are one of hundreds of possible applications that constitute the Smart Grid; a smart meter is a good example of an enabling technology that makes it possible to extract value from two-way communication in support of distributed technologies and consumer participation. But smart meters are not synonymous with the Smart Grid.

It is important to understand that devices such as wind turbines, solar arrays, smart appliances and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are not part of the Smart Grid. Rather; the Smart Grid is the intermediating network that encompasses the technology that enables us to integrate, interface with and intelligently control these innovations and others.

Compare and Contrast: A Grid Where Everything Is Possible

Outlines a vision of our energy future enabled by the Smart Grid. A Smart Grid that is:

Intelligent – capable of sensing system overloads or sudden drops in variable energy supplies from renewable sources such as wind power and rerouting power to prevent or minimize a potential outage

Efficient – capable of meeting increased consumer demand without adding infrastructure.

Accommodating – accepting energy from virtually any fuel source including variable and widely scattered sources such as solar and wind as easily and transparently as the current grid uses coal and natural gas.

Motivating – enabling real-time communication between the consumer and utility so consumers can tailor their energy consumption based on individual preferences, like price and/or environmental concerns.

Opportunistic – creating new opportunities and markets by means of its ability to capitalize on plug-and-play innovation wherever and whenever appropriate.

Quality-focused – capable of delivering the power quality necessary – free of sags, spikes, disturbances and interruptions – to power our increasingly digital economy and the data centers, computers and electronics necessary to make it run

Resilient – increasingly resistant to attack and natural disasters as it becomes more decentralized and reinforced with Smart Grid security protocols

“Green” – slowing the advance of global climate change and offering a genuine path toward significant environmental improvement

The next post is the final post of our summary of the DOE  “The Smart Grid: An Introduction”, entitled “The Smart Grid Report: Part IV – Complexities, Fundamental Technologies and Current Smart Grid Efforts”.

See Related Posts, to read the other posts in this series

© 2009, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Chris de Morsella (146 Articles)

After a decade performing as a lead guitarist for rock bands, Chris de Morsella decided to return to the career his uncle mentored him in as a youth....Software Engineering. Since that time he has thrown himself into his work. He has designed a compound document publishing architecture for regulatory submissions capable of handling very large multi-document FDA regulatory drug approval submissions, for Liquent, a division of Thompson Publishing. At the Associated Press, Chris worked with senior editors at facilities around the world, to develop a solution for replacing existing editorial systems with an integrated international content management solution. He lead the design effort at Microsoft for a help system for mobile devices designed to provide contextual help for users. Chris also helped to develop the web assisted installer for LifeCam2.0, the software for Microsoft’s web cam and developed late breaking features for the product He also served with the Rhapsody client team to redesign and build a major new release of Real Networks Rhapsody client product. His most recent assignment has been Working with the Outlook Mobile Time Management team for the next release of Outlook Mobile for the SmartPhone. Chris' interests are in green building and architecture, smart grid, the cloud, geo-thermal energy, solar energy, smart growth, organic farming and permaculture. Follow Chris on Twitter.