Are you prepared for the smart grid?

Nov. 4, 2009
Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor, explores how the smart grid links you and the utility, with benefits to both.

No single product or solution embodies the smart grid; rather, it’s a blend of integrated technologies and systems that link energy consumers with their providers, thus enabling proactive management and control of electrical power from both ends of the spectrum. The U.S. Department of Energy describes the smart grid’s long-term objective as the wholesale modernization of the nation’s century-old electrical grid, characterized by a two-way flow of electricity and information and capable of monitoring everything from power plants to customer preferences to individual appliances. Following are some notable developments.

Intelligent Machines: Smart grid-enabled machines and appliances improve energy efficiency, reduce peak energy consumption, and reduce costs and carbon emissions. In this sense, the manufacturing environment is a microcosm of a national smart grid. Rockwell’s portfolio of plant-wide energy optimization tools for manufacturers leverages existing technologies to support smart grid concepts such as integrated industrial energy management, real-time load balancing, demand response strategies and bringing renewable energy sources online. For instance, machines equipped to self-manage energy consumption can send data to a central server, which transmits comparative metrics externally to energy data management systems. Using the energy “greenprint” from individual loads, machines and lines to optimize energy use plant-wide produces benefits that extend to the public grid.


Demand response: Energy consumers can profit from smart grid demand response (DR) strategies that alter electricity demand in response to supply conditions. DR systems automate the temporary reduction of power or delay of normal operations to help control energy consumption and earn incentive payments. A recent advance in this area is from Utility Integration Solutions (UISOL) in California, whose standards-based Demand Response Business Network (DRBizNet) will let large power customers sell the results of their own DR on regional power markets, such as PJM Interconnection. The DRBizNet software platform simplifies collaboration between energy service providers and participating consumers, and automates DR business processes to ensure every transaction is tracked, verified and settled properly.

Virtual power plants: Turning large energy consumers into virtual energy generators is the goal of organizations like Viridity Energy. Through a two-way interface using secure communication channels, virtual power providers contribute to a more stable and reliable electricity grid. Viridity’s VPower smart grid technology is an energy optimization platform that allows companies to increase energy efficiency while producing revenues from selling excess power on wholesale electricity markets. VPower combines proprietary load, generation and price forecasting with distributed generation and storage, configurable system constraints, and market analysis and reporting. Coupled with Siemens DEMS, a decentralized energy management system, Viridity’s customers can integrate into the smart grid on the same basis as traditional generation.

Renewable sources: Wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable technologies are being installed in industrial environments as supplemental or distributed power sources. Integrating renewable resources onto the grid supports demand response strategies while at the same time easing our dependence on carbon-based fuels. Helix Wind’s new Wind Turbine Monitoring System (WTMS) is a smart grid technology compatible with the company’s distinctive turbines. WTMS monitors and reports performance metrics in real time, including wind speed, turbine output, generator frequency and other variables.

Proven technologies: Established power system technologies have renewed importance with the emergence of the smart grid. For instance, ABB’s Static VAr Compensator (SVC) contributes to the development of a stable smart grid by improving voltage control through fast-acting reactive power compensation. It leverages the existing infrastructure to counter fluctuations in voltage and current, enabling more power to flow through while maintaining safety margins.

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) technology provides the monitoring and control capabilities necessary to enhance network reliability and efficiency. ABB Network Manager SCADA is a control center solution serving grid operation of energy utilities as well as industries. Its smart grid-enabling capabilities include optimal load shedding at peak loads, quick power restoration when outages occur, operational flexibility, data archiving and loss reduction.

Grid surveillance: Because of the DOE’s emphasis on grid security and reliability, monitoring devices are gaining favor as a way to protect the smart grid infrastructure. An example is Pivotal Vision’s ScadaCam Intelligent Surveillance Technologies, which provide continuous, low-bandwidth operational monitoring of distributed infrastructure assets. ScadaCam uses video analytics software with patent-pending geospatial technology to support independent pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera tracking and the coordination of multiple visual/thermal imaging and thermographic cameras at a site.

E-mail Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy, managing director of Additive Communications, at [email protected].

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