Smart Grids

As our need for electricity increases, the condition of the existing power grid infrastructure continues to decline. The aging power lines may not be equipped to handle the increased demand, and can therefore lead to mass power outages.

The power grid system transmits electricity.

One solution to prevent grid failure is to replace the existing lines with newer lines capable of transmitting more power, but this would be very costly to implement on a national scale. In addition to cost, the new wires would not increase the reliability of the grid, or reduce emissions from burning coal and gas.  An alternative to replacement is the installation of a smart grid.

Smart grids are an overhaul of the established grid system that, over time, would install a combination of new lines, monitoring stations, computers, and automated response programs. These new systems would allow the monitoring of electricity transmission from one station to the next. Digital information about the operating status of the grid would be monitored to locate downed lines and quickly fix outages. These smart technologies can be applied to the existing lines to extend their life while increasing their efficiency.

New power grid standards are being developed by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology that would apply to any smart grid technology. Smart meters are the first of the standards to be imposed. Smart meters are designed to allow a user to monitor their energy consumption and adjust their usage in real time to help lower costs.

Smart meters increase communication between energy suppliers and consumers, and also help to reduce cost.

Smart sensors installed in transformers along the grind would help to reduce the number of power outages. Outages occur when transformers fail unexpectedly, so to reduce the impact of a failure, the sensors monitor the transformer and signal an alarm if it is not working properly. The digital information provided by the sensor allows for real time monitoring and an increased response time to problems.

Outages are often caused by failing transformers.

The automated demand response system the smart grid would supply allows for reduction of energy production during peak hours. Instead of requiring power plants to increase their energy production to meet demand during peak hours, the grid would send out a signal through the internet to the consumer that would turn off appliances. The appliances would be turned off according to an energy management strategy created by the consumer. This automatic reduction in energy use during peak hours reduces energy bills and decreases emissions from the extra coal and gas that would be needed during those hours.

The smart grid technology provides the much needed improvement of the grid system without the cost of replacing all of the current power lines. The smart grid system has the potential to greatly increase the reliability of the grid, increases the efficiency of electricity transmission, and lower environmental impact than replacing the old infrastructure. The smart grid also allows more energy to be generated by renewable sources, which help to reduce the environmental impacts of coal and natural gas.


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