We have talked about the smart grid in our previous blog posts and its relation to energy storage, grid stability, and future power needs. It is undeniable that smart grid technology is changing the power sector; how these technologies are correctly applied matters, especially in achieving sustainability goals for a better future.
Six Smart Grid Technology Applications Leading the Change.
Conventional grid technologies perform a simple function, the transmission of electrical power generated at a central power plant. This happens with voltage transformers that increase and decrease voltage levels gradually while delivering energy to the end-users. Smart grids, however, perform all the conventional functions with the added ability or advantage of monitoring all the activities remotely for better and quicker responses and performance.
We will discuss six key applications for Smart Grid technology in this blog post. They are advanced metering infrastructure, demand response, electric vehicles, wide-area situational awareness; distributed energy resources and storage; and distribution grid management.
1. Advanced Metering Infrastructure
This is also known as AMI. It’s simply applying technologies like smart meters to help with the two-way flow of information between customers and utility agencies. This information revolves around consumption time, amount and appropriate pricing. It enables smart grids to have a wide range of functions compared to conventional grid technologies.
These functions include but are not limited to:
- Remote consumption control
- Time-based pricing
- Consumption forecast
- Fault and outage detection
- Remote connection and disconnection of users
- Theft detection and loss measurements
- Effective cash collection and debt management
Having these functions means gaining better control over power efficiency and quality in smart grids across the globe. Still, there are a few drawbacks that worry consumers and utility agencies alike, such as privacy and confidentiality issues and cybersecurity issues relating to unauthorised access to the AMI devices.
2. Demand Response
Demand response (DR) programs are recent and emerging applications for demand‐side management (DSM). Examples are applications that improve grids’ reliability by providing services such as frequency control, spinning reserves and operating reserves, and applications that help reduce wholesale energy prices and their volatility.
The development of energy regulatory commissions with open wholesale markets and policy support has enabled demand response applications in grid technology. There are two categories of demand response programs from the customer perspective:
- Price‐based DR where customers adjust their electricity consumption in response to the time-variant prices created by their utility agencies to maximise their electricity usage and save on bills
- Incentive‐based DR where benefits are increased by promoting an incentive to influence customer behaviours to change their demand consumptions
DR provides the opportunity for consumers to reduce or shift their electricity usage during peak periods through the programs mentioned above, giving them a huge role in the operation of electric grids with the hopes of balancing supply and demand needs.
3. Electric Vehicles (EVs)
This may seem like a misplaced application for smart grids, but with the obvious electrification of the transport industry, EVs are a preferred solution to global warming issues. In terms of smart grid technologies, plug-in electric vehicles’ introduction comes with myriad challenges and opportunities to sustain power systems. If EVs are added to the grids as regular loads, then there will be no allowance for flexibility of load variables, which will endanger the grid as a whole.
However, these challenges can be managed successfully with controlled approaches, especially when charging is shifted to low‐load hours. EVs can also promote Smart grid sustainability by operating as distributed storage resources (V2G) that contribute to ancillary services such as frequency regulation, peak‐shaving power for the system or the integration of fluctuating renewable resources.
4. Wide-Area Situational Awareness
This refers to the implementation of a set of technologies designed to improve the monitoring of the power system across large geographic areas — effectively providing grid operators with a broad and dynamic picture of the functioning of the grid.
WASA systems provide operators and engineers with the right information at the right time for efficient operation and analysis of the power system, according to SELinc. The ultimate goal here remains the same: to understand and optimise the smart grid’s reliability through its performance and anticipate where necessary changes need to occur before problems abound.
Smart grids use phasor measurement units as sensors for collecting data over large geographical areas making phasor measurement sensors the bane of wide-area measurement systems. They can be relied upon to relay situational awareness over large interconnected areas through:
- Real-time monitoring
- Prediction of future disturbances
5. Distributed Energy Resources and Storage
Distributed energy resources are also known as DER and are part of Distributed generation; they refer to energy sources or generation units that are smaller and located on the consumer side of the electricity generation meter.
Energy is generated from sources (mostly renewable) near the point of use rather than from a centralised system. Some examples are rooftop solar photovoltaic units and wind generating units.
While DER storage involves systems that store distributed energy for later use. This is done with two components; DC-charged batteries and bi-directional inverters. It helps in balancing energy generation, demand and supply. Some other key features are:
- Peak shaving
- Load shifting
- Voltage regulation
- Renewable integration
- Back-up power
6. Distribution Grid Management
A distribution grid includes all the equipment needed for energy distribution, such as wires, poles, transformers etc. The management of the distribution grid in smart grids has to do with having a system “capable of collecting, organising, displaying and analysing real-time or near real-time electric distribution system information” as needed.
This system can also allow grid operators to plan and place complex tasks to increase efficiency, meet targets, prevent failures and optimise energy flow. It can also work hand in hand with other systems to create a combined outlook of distributed operations.
Smart grid technologies are created to be smart, with the capabilities of predetermining faults that can then be prevented, cut costs where possible, and deliver the best value to consumers when needed.