Smart Grid Improves Reliability Exactly How?

September 1, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Every press announcement about Smart Grid cites higher reliability as a benefit, but none explains what that means.  And reliability improves in many ways.  One way is that smart meters automatically send outage notifications so utilities don’t have to wait for customer calls; this speeds up outage detection.  Then, a smart meter system automatically checks the power on status after the outage is fixed, verifying restoration.  This ensures no customers are missed in the restoration process.

Another way is that smart meters and networks increase the ability of the generation system to meet peak demand by enabling smart (dynamic) pricing, appliance control, and other demand response programs that reduce peak demand.  Smart meters also promote conservation through energy feedback, further reducing loads on generators.  And just as demand response and conservation help avoid overloading generating plants, they help avoid overloading lines, substations and transformers in the transmission and distribution grids.   This is increasingly necessary as distributed solar and wind generation are added to the power grid and as electric vehicles start adding significant new loads when charging (one utility CEO told me a PHEV is like adding another house to the distribution grid).

Still another way is that smart meters report real-time voltage alarms and ongoing voltage information to enable utilities to plan and operate their networks better.  This knowledge, coupled with real-time and ongoing knowledge of peak loads, leads to reduced line losses and better power quality – with fewer consumer electronic devices getting fried by over- or under-voltage events.

In short, Smart Grid improves reliability by improving outage handling; avoiding generation, transmission, and distribution overloads; and enhancing power quality.

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Entry filed under: Reliability, Smart Grid.

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