The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently doing intensive research to update our nation’s electric grid. A smarter system will function more efficiently, be more reliable, stay affordable, accommodate traditional and renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint. While the DOE does recognize the magnitude of this mission, it believes that by the year 2030, the power distribution grid as everyone knows it will forever be changed. So what is a Smart Grid anyway?
Smart Grid Evolution
The Smart Grid configuration is a fusion of available sources of energy, which is delivered to the consumers using transmission and distribution systems. In the first stage, the raw electricity is delivered from the power generation source to distribution substations. In the second stage, electricity will then be delivered from substations to the end users or consumers.
At first glance, a casual onlooker might not find anything astounding about the system. Upon further review, however, one would discover that at the heart of the Smart Grid power infrastructure lies an automatic distribution technology, which enables the delivery of electricity to occur in a highly efficient manner.
Try to visualize your house with the lights on in every room. Now, you would not want to waste energy by keeping an unoccupied room lit, would you? One of the features of the Smart Grid power infrastructure would be similar and fully automated.
This means that the power supply available in a particular area would be automatically tailored to fit the existing demand of a given electricity market. The excess power could then be delivered to other areas with a higher demand. Now that is definitely energy efficiency at its best!
Smart Grid Mission: Innovation
As electricity demands soar, little has been done to transmit and distribute energy where it’s needed. Obvious signs of the current grid’s limitations show themselves in the form of power outages and rolling blackouts. To combat these inefficiencies, the Smart Grid is designed to minimize power outages. According to the DOE, power outages have the propensity of causing huge losses to various industries. The rolling blackout in Silicon Valley, for instance, reported a loss of around $75 million. In fact, high tech companies, such as Sun Microsystems, estimate losses of $1 million/ minute when a blackout occurs.
The Smart Grid Task Force has been created to coordinate development, research and develop projects, and monitor smart grid governmental activities. The strategic goal of reducing carbon emissions is of high importance. If just a 5% increase in efficiency were achieved, the benefits would rival the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 53 million cars. The vision of the DOE’s Smart Grid power infrastructure is near zero downtime and lost productivity. That is, if one substation goes off the grid, the rest of the distribution will not be affected. This might seem pretty ambitious. But with the advanced technologies modernizing the electric grid, the DOE believes that it can be done.
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