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Better information builds 'smarter' smart grids

Posted: 26 Aug 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart grid? power system? renewable energy?

Towards more flexible systems
There are a number of ways to achieve a more flexible power system from demand-side-management and load-shifting technologies through to various storage devices. However, regardless of what control methodologies are employed, all of the methodologies require information to act efficiently. For the smart grid to be able to make intelligent decisions it requires informationmuch like you or I would require information to be able to make an informed decision. This information is important in both structuring and operating the smart grid.

When structuring a smart grid it is essential to understand what situations might arise and design the system accordingly. There is little use in spending a lot of effort adding new operations to the power system if the mitigation techniques are not sufficient to handle the expected events. For example, if a system is planning on employing local storages or (re)negotiating load response contracts for damping rapid changes in supply/demand it is important to size the storages/contracts appropriately. Similarly, it is economically wasteful to completely over-design the system without regard to the likelihood of an outcome. Thus, assessing the likely behavior of the various parts of the system is vital; extensive thought and effort is typically put into integration studies. Increasingly often these integration studies have a core focus of estimating the effects of significant market penetration of weather-driven renewable energies such as wind, solar or hydro. Furthermore, these studies are used for planning purposes often many years into the future and need to account for plants that may not even exist yet. In such cases offline modeling must be used to create synthetic project data over the area being studiedusually to create some kind of long-term expectation of behavior.

Making proactive smart grids
During operation a smart grid is essentially an active system: with observations the grid can be reactive, but with forecasts the grid can be proactive. The smart grid dynamically makes decisions based on the available information about the transmission system, the distribution system, the supply and the demand. The smart grid enables additional flexibility, but this flexibility is not infinite. To achieve optimum efficiency, it is imperative to operate towards future system conditions instead of simply reacting to the existing conditions. This is underlined with the increasing penetration of weather-driven renewable energies. Meteorological processes drive these energy sources and so to be able to compensate for the effects of these variations on the power system, it is important to forecast the weather and specifically its ability to drive local energy generation.

The smart grid has a lot to offer power systems all around the world. It is likely that the specifics of each grid may be different and it is possible there will never be a uniform definition of which grids are "smart" and which are not. However, considering the value that can be obtained through the incorporation of better information throughout the power system there is little doubt that smart grids will be employed all around the world. This will promote better efficiency, better reliability and a better capability to incorporate variable sources of energy, such as the weather-driven renewable energies. These systems will be built on and operated with the best information availableand as new sources of information become available, these too, will be incorporated to make the smart grid smarter.

- Cameron Potter
??IEEE Member, and
??Managing Director,
??3TIER Pacific Rim Pty Ltd

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