Last month, POWER explored the growing importance of the smart grid, which is envisioned as using digital technologies to enable integrated, real-time control of all the system’s elements, from generation to end use. This month we focus on the emerging technology of microgrids: controlled groupings of dispersed generation sources that are connected to the main electrical grid but that can function independent of it. We examine their benefits and their potential impact on 21st-century utilities and their customers.
In mid-2006, a Google search of the term â€œSmart Gridâ€ generated around 2,000 responses. The same search this past month yielded more than 500,000 hits from a wide variety of sources. The explosiveness of the concept is especially interesting because there is no universal agreement on what constitutes a smart gridâ€”much less agreement on what […]
The next-generation power grid—enhanced by digital technologies throughout the network to give generators, distributors, and customers greater control—promises to improve efficiency and lower operating costs. This year, in the most full-scale effort yet, Xcel Energy begins introducing intelligent grid technologies that it hopes will make Boulder, Colo., the first Smart Grid City.
Managing ongoing threats to power plants’ digital, telecommunications, monitoring, control, and automation systems is no longer just a good idea. It’s an essential element of superior plant operations and now a regulatory requirement as well, thanks to new critical infrastructure protection standards recently approved by FERC.
The advent of the Smart Grid will bring a new driver for value creation to the electric power industry: economies of connection. In the future, the Smart Grid may offer our industry improved returns more typical of Internet-based businesses like eBay, Amazon, and Google to replace the diminishing returns typical of traditional “steel in the […]
North America’s electricity grid has been described as the world’s most complex machine. The grid is unique among utility infrastructure systems for its need to have supply and demand—generation and load—balanced at all times. There still are no technologies for storing large quantities of electricity akin to liquefied natural gas tanks, voice mail, or […]
T&D systems with embedded intelligence have a great future, and they always will. Too many powerful forces—politics, money, and power—remain to be reconciled before consumers and utilities can work together, seamlessly, to reduce electricity demand and eliminate delivery system bottlenecks.
As the possibility of national climate change legislation increases on Capitol Hill and captures the attention of the electric power community, I am concerned that regulators, legislators, and utility executives will forget the urgency of modernizing the U.S. electricity delivery infrastructure. On the surface, the issues of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and upgrading and […]
The U.S. electric utility industry has long encouraged its customers to get more value from their electricity dollar. Today, the industry—facing volatile costs and mounting concerns about the environment—is coming together to create a new role for energy efficiency—one that enables technology to deliver more value to customers and electric utilities alike. For example, "smart" […]