by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President
Enerdynamics instructor Dan Bihn and I spent 3 days at the IEEE conference on Smart Grids this past week in Anaheim. One of everyone’s key questions was “What is the Smart Grid?” We learned there is no clear consensus, although everyone seems to agree that we already have a somewhat smart grid, so what we’re really talking about is making a Smarter Grid. What this entails is pushing digital communications, monitoring, control, distributed intelligence, generation capabilities and storage capabilities deeper and deeper into the grid from generation into transmission, distribution and even behind the customer meter.
For instance, just a few years ago energy companies could remotely monitor the position of switches in large transmission substations but not anywhere else. Now they may have that capability extended to distribution substations and maybe even to switches out on distribution feeders. Once AMR meters are installed at the customer facility they can now remotely monitor conditions all the way to the customer meter. Such capabilities can be used in many ways.
Dan and I came up with three different broad categories of applications. It gets confusing because all three use common technologies and, depending on who you talk to, all three get called the Smart Grid. Here are the three:
- Doing the functions that transmission owners and distribution utilities do today but using new technology to do it more efficiently and reliably
- Enabling a host of new services that allow customers to more actively participate in electricity markets through use of demand response and distributed generation
- Enabling micro-grids, which are small localized grids that can run in isolation but can also be interconnected into the wider grid
In future blog posts, we will explore these categories in more depth, and these concepts will culminate in Enerdynamics’ new one-day seminar, Smart Grid Overview, which will be available in Houston on April 20.