What is Smart Grid and why is it important?

> What is Smart Grid and why is it important? Smart Grid refers to an improved electricity supply chain that runs from a major power plant all the way inside your home. In short, there are thousands of power plants throughout the United States that generate electricity using wind energy, nuclear energy, coal, hydro, natural gas, and a variety of other resources.These generating stations produce electricity at a certain electrical voltage.This voltage is then ³stepped-up´ (increased) to very high voltages, such as 500,000 volts, to increase the efficiency of power transmission over long distances. Once this electrical power gets near your town or city, the electrical voltage is ³stepped-down´ (decreased) in a utility substation to a lower voltage for distribution around your town or city. As this electrical power gets closer to your home, it is stepped-down by another transformer to the voltage you use in your home. This power enters your home through your electrical meter. The voltage in your home is typically 110-120 volts for most appliances, but may also be 220-240 volts for an electric range, clothes dryer, or air conditioner.

In many areas of the United States, the electricity delivery system described above is getting old and worn out. In addition, population growth in some areas has caused the entire transmission system to be over used and fragile. At the same time, you have probably added more electronic devices to your home, such as computers, high-definition TV¶s, microwave ovens, wireless telephones, and even electronic controls on refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers. These new appliances are more sensitive to variations in electric voltage than old appliances, motors, and incandescent light bulbs. Unfortunately, the entire electrical grid is becoming more fragile at the same time the appliances in your home are getting more sensitive to electrical variations. In short, the reliability of electrical power in the United States will decline unless we do something about it now. Adding new transmission lines will help the utilities get more power from the power plants to your home. However, many communities don¶t want new power lines in their areas. In addition, adding new capacity, although needed, will not increase the reliability of all the old electrical equipment reaching the end of its useful life. What is needed is a new approach that significantly increases the efficiency of the entire electrical delivery system. This approach will not only increase reliability, but will also reduce energy in the delivery process and thereby reduce greenhouse house emissions. We call this new approach Smart Grid. The basic concept of Smart Grid is to add monitoring, analysis, control, and communication capabilities to the national electrical delivery system to maximize the throughput of the system while reducing the energy consumption. The Smart Grid will allow utilities to move electricity around the system as efficiency and economically as possible. It will also allow the homeowner and business to useelectricity as economically as possible. You may want to keep your house set at 75 degrees F in the summer time when prices are low, but you may be willing to increase your thermostat to 78 degrees F if prices are high. Similarly, you may want to dry your clothes for 5 cents per kilowatt-hour at 9:00 pm in stead of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. You will have the choice and flexibility to manage your electrical use while minimizing your costs. Smart Grid builds on many of the technologies already used by electric utilities but adds communication and control capabilities that will optimize the operation of the entire electrical grid. Smart Grid is also positioned to take advantage of new technologies, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, various forms of distributed generation, solar energy, smart metering, lighting management systems, distribution automation, and many more.

In people's homes. or prevent it from happening in the first place. The buzz reflects how important reliable. With an overlay of digital technology. Governments and utilities around the world are devoting billions of dollars to lay new transmission lines and make the electricity network operate more like the computer networks we access every day. if there's a breakdown at your local substation. smart-grid technologies use information to optimize the flow of electricity.What the smart grid means to you by Martin LaMonica Yet again. What would a smart grid be able to do that today's not-so-smart grid can't? Right now. which appliances consume the most. utility executives say. consumers can get more detailed energy data and start taking advantage of . which are inconsistent sources of energy that can become more reliable with better controls. These can be small displays or Web-based programs that give a real-time view of how much energy you're using. Despite living in the age of information. But what does it mean for individuals? And what technologies make up the smart grid? To give you a clue on what the smart-grid fuss is all about. It's not so much a single thing as it is a goal to give the electricity system a digital makeover to make it more efficient and reliable. the grid promises to operate more efficiently and reliably. the tech industry has a buzzword everyone seems to be using but few really understand. Just surfacing that information will give people ideas on how to shave energy bills by 5 to 15 percent. The smart grid follows the footsteps of the Internet and the interstate highway system--they are giant investments in infrastructure. we offer this FAQ. Much like computers and routers manage the flow of bits on the Internet. It can also accommodate more solar and wind power. Placing a networked sensor inside a transformer or along wires could locate and report a problem. Once that conduit is put in place. the smart grid should mean more detailed information through home energy-monitoring tools. and how your home compares to others. affordable. Big tech vendors and hundreds of start-ups are jockeying for prominence in the smart grid. the utility usually finds out when customers call to complain. and cleaner energy is to our modern lifestyle and economy. most of us only get a glimpse of our energy consumption when the utility bills come once a month. What's needed to start is a smart meter with two-way communications or some other kind of gateway. Images: The many faces of the smart grid What is the smart grid? Building the smart grid means adding computer and communications technology to the existing electricity grid.

such as a discounted rate. "Shedding load" could mean turning the gas heat off of the clothes drier for a few minutes or dimming the lights in a supermarket in the middle of the day. will test big appliances--refrigerators. With a smart meter and monitoring software. "Smart Grid City" and is installing the equipment on power lines and people's homes. giving the area a few hours of backup power in the case of an outage and a buffer to draw from during peak times. and networking gear. Consumers get access to a free Web-based program that gives them a real-time readout of use. A utility. a spike in demand from the air conditioning load on a hot summer day. which helps them lower their usage. In people's homes.. such as home solar systems. the 50-kilowatt solar array makes electricity for the homes in the neighborhood. Colo. for example. This is very important to utilities because it's costly and polluting to bring on auxiliary power plants to meet. such as charging your plug-in electric vehicle in the middle of the night to get offpeak rates. . It could be as simple as making ice or running the dishwasher in the middle of the night. Consumers can take part in demand-response programs. say. more viable and user-friendly. is keenly interested in how much distributed energy is available so it can calibrate its own daily power generation. What are some examples? Xcel Energy has dubbed Boulder. it envisions putting sensors along power lines.efficiency incentives. such as routers. too. though. It also feeds the battery. When the sun is shining. Consumers and businesses have financial incentives to participate. Consider Duke Energy's smart-grid trial in Charlotte. to get a reduction on their electricity bill. networked appliances are smarter and more efficient. as part of a home-area network.C. too. The project reflects how the utility industry seems to be following the path of the computing industry. individual appliances like water heaters could eventually be networked as well. which went from centralized processing with mainframes to a much more distributed and varied architecture. and the like--that can get information on fluctuating electricity prices to do its job more efficiently. The goal here is to dial back energy consumption at peak times. in substations and transformers. consumers could program lighting and major appliances on a schedule. potentially avoiding the need to build new power plants to meet growing demand. When you go deeper into the smart grid. It can also diversify our energy sources. The next step toward efficiency is what's called demand response. washing machines. In addition. Duke plans to have millions of smart meters installed in homes over the next two years. A smarter grid also makes distributed energy. GE and start-up display-maker Tendril. a homeowner can see how much solar panels are producing and their carbon footprint is being reduced. About 100 households have smart meters and in-home energy management tools. It also lets them know when they are buying electricity made from clean sources. In theory. Or. A substation--the point that distributes electricity from long-haul transmission lines to a neighborhood--is equipped with 213 solar panels and a large battery. N. you realize it isn't just about a more detailed utility bill. One of the more aggressive utilities in this area.

Who are the companies participating in the smart grid? The smart grid is shaping up to be a giant mash-up of the electricity utility. is jumping in with both feet with a broad initiative to supply networking equipment for utilities as well as in-home energy management tools. but it isn't the norm in many states. seeing the home network as a point to gather data on home energy use and. and ABB that are introducing modern control systems to manage the flow of electricity. Finally. Cisco. so the smart grid is supposed to reduce wasted energy. not less. Heavyweight tech companies--Cisco. many of which focus on energy displays. recently released a road map but everyone agrees there's much work to be done. there are the global infrastructure companies like GE. This helps explain why we've been hearing about the grid for 10 years but very few of us actually have it. IBM. . Then there's the lack of standards for a dizzying number of tasks. Microsoft. The whole point of a smarter grid is to use electricity more efficiently. In addition to a number of smart meter makers. potentially. which is responsible for establishing an interoperability framework for smart-grid standards. computing.S. which is supposed to reflect the fluctuating cost of energy delivery in a day. OK. The other key players are the host of start-ups in the area. Some sort of tiered pricing would allow a consumer to take advantage of off-peak rates. They invest big dollars--think multibillion-dollar power plants--based on their ability to sell more kilowatt-hours. and other hardware that makes the grid tick. utilities operate without strong incentives for efficiency. The National Institute of Standards and Technology. A handful of stronger network-oriented companies are emerging. but many utilities aren't nearly as enthusiastic because of how they are regulated. Siemens. notably Silver Spring Networks. give consumers better information. and Google--all have serious initiatives in this area and loom large among utility executives working on smart-grid programs. and allow the grid to use more solar and wind power. and communications industries. is building the technology backbone for many grid modernization programs. but in many states in the U. Microsoft and Google are going after consumers as well while trying to sign on utility partners. there's the electrical infrastructure itself: meters. IBM. transformers. Verizon is looking at this as well. What's the hold-up? Where to start? Utilities aren't known as the most fleet-of-foot businesses and the energy industry invests a lower percentage of revenue in technology than most industries. transmission equipment. The more progressive utilities have found ways to justify their investments in the smart grid based on savings from energy reductions. But lack of investment is only part of the picture. A key regulatory piece of the smart grid is time-of-day pricing. which offers a wireless card that goes into smart meters. which sees big dollar signs when it gets involved in large infrastructure projects. control lighting and appliances for better efficiency. say industry executives. too. That includes installing communications equipment along the grid as well as the software and servers to process the mountains of data that need to be processed.

The trick for successful demand response programs is to entice consumers with lower electricity bills without being intrusive or forcing a dramatic change. That said. Others may just set up "auto pilot" programs to take advantage of off-peak rates. say industry executives. it's early on and there may be a killer application that will emerge from the smart grid platform. . these technology businesses need to be profitable. But the rush to modernize the grid has gotten some security experts raising the alarm and calling for more scrutiny. natural gas. are likely to welcome more detailed information on how much electricity. Some people and businesses are willing to allow a utility to communicate through a smart meter to remotely control the thermostat on the air conditioner in exchange for cheaper rates. and able to use more renewable energy. So when will I have my smart grid? Like the highways and the Internet. Is the smart grid more secure? Given the smart grid's fledgling status. it's not clear that people are willing to pay much money for home energy-management tools. but many of the technologies and business models need to be ironed out. much like the Web brought consumers better tools for managing personal finances. Consumers. But these demandresponse programs are clearly not for everyone. (Credit: Department of Energy) Amid all the technical and business challenges. much like you might use a programmable thermostat. Security experts are calling for security to be better baked into the standards for the smart grid and for industry professionals to use better security practices to avoid dangerous hacks. The first signs will be better energy-saving tools for consumers. Some enthusiasts will want to closely monitor energy use and ratchet down consumption for environmental and financial reasons. they say. in general. There's even some concern that a mini-investment bubble is building around smart grids. The increased use of the Internet instead of private networks for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) control systems and the bleeding together of existing corporate networks with energy providers' control networks opens up more potential cyber-vulnerabilities. resilient. and water they use. But even though there's the promise of energy savings. the smart grid will take years to build. probably decades.The basic idea: be more efficient. Finally. it's hard to provide a definitive report card. there's the question of consumer acceptance.

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