Understanding smart grid technology

Amy Larsen DeCarlo/Current Analysis
13/12/2010
News
Features
Smart grid technology is broadly defined as a more efficient, automated, and secure transmission and distribution system than the infrastructure used today to move electrical power from generation points to end customers in the United States.
The aim is to build out a more reliable, protected and energy-efficient electrical network using digital technology that integrates components like advanced routing and switching technology and intelligent monitoring systems.
Vendors and telecom carriers alike are lining up with a variety of solutions targeting utility companies that are facing increasing administrative, maintenance and security issues related to managing an aging infrastructure.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) of the Department of Energy (DOE), through its Modern Grid Implementation Strategy initiative, specified the attributes of smart grid technology and the capabilities it should support:
  • Self-healing from power disturbances and outages
  • Engage consumers to use electricity more efficiently
  • Resilience against physical and cyber attack
  • Deliver power quality to meet 21st-century electrical needs
  • Work with all generation and storage options
  • Facilitate the creation of new products, services and markets
  • Optimal resource utilization
The power industry wants a way to get the individual elements in an electrical generation and distribution system, from the transformers down to the home power meter, to both speak and listen to each another. The parts should communicate changes in demand in order to route power more efficiently and cost-effectively and to optimize energy usage. This level of communication also supports faster remediation in the event of an outage.

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