Electric power systems constitute fundamental infrastructures in modern society, consisting of electric power grids and distribution networks that connect the generating stations to virtually every home, office, factory and institution across the country.
However, high-voltage transmission systems are facing challenges from increased bulk power transactions, large scale integration of renewable energy sources, environmental constraints and energy efficiency requirements.
Power grids worldwide are switching to ‘Smart Grids’ to address these challenges. Smart grids are designed to imbibe intelligent processes and methodologies in the power grids to improve their flexibility, reliability and overall efficiency.
Electric power grids are responsible for transmitting the generated power to the end-user through a large system of high-tension cables across a region. The grid allows power to be bought and sold across vast expanses. Power grids cannot store electricity, instead supporting an optimal distribution of electricity allowing for a more balanced supply-and-demand equation.
Smarter power grids that are more efficient, cost effective and robust are being encouraged due to expanding demand, higher fuel costs and pollution-related issues. Renewable energy systems such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal generation facilities also entail the use of complex power management techniques in the grid, requiring the grid to have sufficient intelligence to switch the transmission on/off based on the power generated.
Factors driving the need for smart power grids include increased energy demand from all sectors, rising asset costs, impetus towards renewable power sources, focus on greenhouse gas reductions as well as advancements in computers and embedded technology to support high voltage applications.
The Smart Grid
Smart grids are created by integrating digital technology to power grids to deliver electricity from power plants to consumers in a more intelligent, efficient and transparent way. The smart grid adds monitoring, analysis, control and communication capabilities to the power in order to maximise the throughput of the system while reducing energy consumption.
Smart grids allow easy tracking of electricity usage as all systems are automated and metered, enabling analysis and reporting that help system engineers to better manage loads and effectively cater to power demands.
Embedded systems deployed at various points of the grid from power generation to end-user consumption, help in analysing the critical characteristics of the system and also communicate them to other systems attached to the grid to achieve excellent energy management capabilities.
Intelligent embedded power grids can create value up and down the chain from efficient production of electricity in power plants to optimal supply and distribution of power to match the usage patterns of the end-users.
Smart power grids can dramatically improve the reliability, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of electric power delivery systems.
Key features of smart grids:
- Smart grid architecture relies on embedded technology to manage an energy system and automatically track usage
- Enables seamless transfer of information across the entire power grid
- Embedded technology allows the deployment of centralised Smart Energy Management Software to control the power available across the entire grid
- Power delivery network built on embedded technology can easily be interfaced with electrical equipment
- Combined intelligence of interconnected devices permits real-time power transactions and seamless interfaces between end users and the network
- Information received from interconnected applications allows creation of an efficient power generation and transmission plan
- Facilitates the proper delivery of electricity from renewable power systems often located in remote regions
- Interconnected systems enable faster detection of outages, correction of faults and quicker restoration of power supply
- Intelligent embedded systems placed throughout the power grid provide automation capabilities to the entire grid
- Better usage of existing power plants and optimal management of peak power demands
- System-wide ability to manage energy and demand
- Lesser dependency on conventional gas/ thermal plants to cater to peak demands, reducing carbon emissions
- Managed energy usage through dynamic monitoring of two-way power metering
- Incentivised usage enables potential cost savings for customer and provider