The North American electric power infrastructure is a highly complex dynamical system. The reliable operation of the power generation and delivery system requires the multi-level interactions and integration of numerous specialized component technologies and systems. While advancing the capabilities and performance of individual system components is important to enable progress, it is essential to remain focused on solving larger systemic challenges in order to successfully achieve a fully operable Smart Grid.
Before fully implementing the Smart Grid nationwide, during 1998-2008 I proposed that Smart Grid development start with “microgrids” that begin at loads, or at a building level, and extend to larger power delivery systems. More specifically, in 2008-2010 I proposed using the University of Minnesota as a “Smart Grid Sandbox” where companies could contribute their Smart Grid technologies and expertise as an experimentation and assessment “Smart Grid Sandbox” to determine what works well (reliably, securely, efficiently, and makes good business sense) in the end-to-end Smart Grid overlaid system.
As part of the Smart Grid Sandbox, there would be four primary phases (from “micro” to “macro” assessment and deployment, all centered around enabling services):
- Smart Room
- Smart Grid School/Building
- Smart Grid U™
- Smart Grid City
The transformation of the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities’ and Morris campuses along with the UMore Park into SmartGridU™s would consist of several elements:
- DEVELOP system models, algorithms and tools for successfully integrating the components (generation, storage and loads) within a microgrid in these locations
- CONDUCT “wind tunnel” data-driven simulation testing of smart grid designs, alternative architectures and technology assessments, utilizing the University as a living laboratory
- BUILD A ROADMAP to achieve a “Net Zero Smart Grid” (Net Zero Energy) at the large-scale community level (i.e. – a self-contained, intelligent electricity and energy infrastructure able to match renewable energy supply to the electricity demand)
To achieve the objective of Net Zero Energy (NZE), campus facility managers need new technical approaches for energy planning and operations that will:
- Provide the capability to optimally reconfigure energy systems to accommodate new construction, building renovations, and to make best use of affordable deployments and equipment upgrades
- Optimize the real?time operation of all demand side equipment, and make best use of on?site power generation and energy storage options, which include a phased-in plan for electrification of transportation
Once the Smart Grid, from “micro” to “macro” concepts and implementations in the Sandbox become fully assessed, “stress-tested” and operable, the local and national stakeholders, public and private, can better assess pathways forward and to manage risks in implementing the Smart Grid across the nation as a more secure and efficient power grid.
Dr. Massoud Amin is the Director of the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. TLI offers Masters of Science programs in security technologies, management of technology and infrastructure systems engineering.