The Smart Grid is considered one of the most significant industry introductions in the last quarter-century, with its goal of making it smarter and more resilient by implementing cutting-edge technologies and controls that communicate and collaborate to deliver electricity more reliably.
Electricity was initially supplied by power plants via a network of local grids in the early days of the electrical age. These power plants were often located near customers and fuel sources. Customers were supplied with power across short distances and at low voltages. Although this system initially worked well enough, it was not scalable as more individuals became interested in electrical power. As a result, these smaller grids grew in size, and a more complex system was built, consisting of voltage steps up and down to facilitate transmission.
The electric grid consists of more than just transmission and generation infrastructure though. In the 1920s, utility companies began measures to connect these grids in order to boost reliability, culminating in the ‘grid’ we know today, which is an ecosystem of asset owners, manufacturers, service providers, and federal, state, and local government bodies all working together to manage one of the most reliable power grids in the world.
America’s economy, national security, and even the health and safety of its population are all dependent on reliable energy delivery. With almost 9,200 electric generating units totaling more than 1 million megawatts of producing capacity interconnected by more than 600,000 miles of transmission lines, the electric grid in the United States is an engineering marvel.
Though the United States has one of the most reliable energy grids in the world, it is aging and in need of modernization. The Smart Grid will assist utilities in a variety of ways to better serve their customers. Modernizing the grid will make it smarter and more resilient by implementing cutting-edge technologies and controls that communicate and collaborate to deliver electricity more reliably while greatly reducing the frequency and duration of power outages, reducing storm impacts, and restoring service faster when outages occur.
A Smart Grid is an electricity delivery system modernization that automatically monitors, protects, and optimizes the operation of its interconnected components. However, the fundamental differences between a smart grid and a traditional grid will be the incorporation of new technologies, which will range from end-user hardware such as generation and batteries to the design of substation software platforms and data leveraging. In reality, the Smart Grid is expected to improve grid stability by blurring the distinction between consumers and producers, and therefore between power supply and demand, by encouraging prosumers of all generation and storage types.
When optimized, the digital grid may allow a mix in the decarbonized power generating mix while also proactively reducing disturbances. It is also the basis for a bidirectional decentralized energy system. This exciting transformation of the nation’s electric grid presents both challenges and benefits for the growth of today’s power delivery system’s capabilities.
But, are these “benefits” truly beneficial to us? The quick answer is yes, especially over time.
The gradual digitalization of utilities and networks could not have come at a better time to aid in the transition to a more sustainable energy grid, as more people turn to renewable energy. Smart grids have the potential to enable the use of decarbonized electrical sources while also proactively minimizing interruptions.
Furthermore, electrical consumers might enter the power market directly and have an impact on the system. Consumers can better manage their own energy consumption and expenses because they have easier access to their own data. Utilities benefit from upgraded grids as well, with improved security, lower peak loads, greater renewables integration, and lower operational costs.
Thanks to this innovation, individuals and businesses will be able to create their own clean and plentiful energy supply in the future, sell it to others, or store it for future use, such as charging their EVs overnight. Investing in new energy opportunities and distributed energy resources (DERs) will help utilities improve their responsiveness, agility, and dependability as the world shifts to electric vehicles and rapidly electrifies our daily lives.