As a national Smart Grid is constructed, it is important that developers include renewable energy and localization considerations to ensure that the Smart Grid operates as close to 100% efficiency as possible.
When it comes to renewable energy sources, wind and solar have become the primary foci. Over the past couple of years, renewables have been at the center of the energy debate. While renewables strive to eliminate the need for non-renewable resources, wind and solar energy are traditionally characterized by their intermittency of operation and their inability to dispatch.
Since the reliable operation of the power supply and delivery system requires a balance between instantaneous supply and demand, it will be critical for further developments to be made in how wind and solar power are stored. Once wind and solar energy can be reliably stored, those renewables will be able to offset the operational costs of the Smart Grid.
Similarly, as manufacturers and consumers become more energy conscious, plug-in hybrids and electric cars will become more and more popular. While the effects that these plug-in electric cars will have on the Smart Grid are undetermined at this point, it will be important for Smart Grid developers to take these load requirements into consideration as they construct the Smart Grid.
On a more local level, energy companies and electric power utilities have already begun upgrading their infrastructures to better monitor and manage energy usage. These 2-way communications allow the energy companies to regulate loads during peak usage to better optimize their delivery systems. This will not only allow energy providers unique insights into how commercial and residential customers consume electricity, but also allow those energy providers the ability to control power so as to minimize the risk of power outages.
90+% of the electricity generated in developed nations is consumed in residential, commercial, and industrial premises. Energy efficiency and peak load reduction are required to reduce overall electricity consumption, to minimize use of expensive peaking plants, and to fully exploit renewable sources. Automation and control systems in homes, buildings, and industrial plants are needed to minimize consumption and cost.
As development of the Smart Grid moves forward and the technology that utilizes renewable energy sources becomes more reliable, Smart Grid developers must integrate renewable energy sources with the infrastructure changes that local energy providers are already implementing.
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.