Smart Grid Systems

A smart grid is a form of electricity network utilising digital technology. A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using two-way digital communications to control appliances at consumers' homes; this saves energy, reduces costs and increases reliability and transparency. It overlays the ordinary electrical grid with an information and net metering system, that includes smart meters. Smart grids are being promoted by many governments as a way of addressing energy independence, global warming and emergency resilience issues.

A smart grid is made possible by applying sensing, measurement and control devices with two-way communications to electricity production, transmission, distribution and consumption parts of the power grid that communicate information about grid condition to system users, operators and automated devices, making it possible to dynamically respond to changes in grid condition.

A smart grid includes an intelligent monitoring system that keeps track of all electricity flowing in the system. It also has the capability of integrating renewable electricity such as solar and wind. When power is least expensive the user can allow the smart grid to turn on selected home appliances such as washing machines or factory processes that can run at arbitrary hours. At peak times it could turn off selected appliances to reduce demand.

Other names for a smart grid (or for similar proposals) include smart electric or power grid, intelligent grid (or intelligrid), futuregrid, and the more modern intergrid and intragrid.

In principle, the smart grid is a simple upgrade of 20th century power grids which generally "broadcast" power from a few central power generators to a large number of users, to instead be capable of routing power in more optimal ways to respond to a very wide range of conditions, and to charge a premium to those that use energy during peak hours.

Current Power Grid Problems
The major driving forces to modernize current power grids can be divided in four, general categories.
  • Increasing reliability, efficiency and safety of the power grid.
  • Enabling decentralized power generation so homes can be both an energy client and supplier (provide consumers with an interactive tool to manage energy usage, as net metering).
  • Flexibility of power consumption at the clients side to allow supplier selection (enables distributed generation, solar, wind, biomass).
  • Increase GDP by creating more new, green-collar energy jobs related to renewable energy industry manufacturing, plug-in electric vehicles, solar panel and wind turbine generation, energy conservation construction.
Smart grid functions
According to the United States Department of Energy's Modern Grid Initiative report, a modern smart grid must:
  1. Be able to heal itself
  2. Motivate consumers to actively participate in operations of the grid
  3. Resist attack
  4. Provide higher quality power that will save money wasted from outages
  5. Accommodate all generation and storage options
  6. Enable electricity markets to flourish
  7. Run more efficiently
  8. Enable higher penetration of intermittent power generation sources

Load adjustment
The total load connected to the power grid can vary significantly over time. Although the total load is the sum of many individual choices of the clients, the overall load is not a stable, slow varying, average power consumption. Imagine the increment of the load if a popular television program starts and millions of televisions will draw current instantly. Traditionally, to respond to a rapid increase in power consumption, faster than the start-up time of a large generator, some spare generators are put on a dissipative standby mode. A smart grid may warn all individual television sets, or another larger customer, to reduce the load temporarily (to allow time to start up a larger generator) or continuously (in the case of limited resources). Using mathematical prediction algorithms it is possible to predict how many standby generators need to be used, to reach a certain failure rate. In the traditional grid, the failure rate can only be reduced at the cost of more standby generators. In a smart grid, the load reduction by even a small portion of the clients may eliminate the problem.

Demand response support
Demand response support allows generators and loads to interact in an automated fashion in real time, coordinating demand to flatten spikes. Eliminating the fraction of demand that occurs in these spikes eliminates the cost of adding reserve generators, cuts wear and tear and extends the life of equipment, and allows users to cut their energy bills by telling low priority devices to use energy only when it is cheapest.

Currently, power grid systems have varying degrees of communication within control systems for their high value assets, such as in generating plants, transmission lines, substations and major energy users. In general information flows one way, from the users and the loads they control back to the utilities. The utilities attempt to meet the demand and succeed or fail to varying degrees (brownout, rolling blackout, uncontrolled blackout). The total amount of power demand by the users can have a very wide probability distribution which requires spare generating plants in standby mode to respond to the rapidly changing power usage. This one-way flow of information is expensive; the last 10% of generating capacity may be required as little as 1% of the time, and brownouts and outages can be costly to consumers.

Greater resilience to loading
Although multiple routes are touted as a feature of the smart grid, the old grid also featured multiple routes. Initial power lines in the grid were built using a radial model, later connectivity was guaranteed via multiple routes, referred to as a network structure. However, this created a new problem: if the current flow or related effects across the network exceed the limits of any particular network element, it could fail, and the current would be shunted to other network elements, which eventually may fail also, causing a domino effect. See power outage. A technique to prevent this is load shedding by rolling blackout or voltage reduction (brownout).

Decentralization of power generation
Another element of fault tolerance of smart grids is decentralized power generation. Distributed generation allows individual consumers to generate power onsite, using whatever generation method they find appropriate. This allows individual loads to tailor their generation directly to their load, making them independent from grid power failures. Classic grids were designed for one-way flow of electricity, but if a local sub-network generates more power than it is consuming, the reverse flow can raise safety and reliability issues. A smart grid can manage these situations.

Price signaling to consumers
In many countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK, the electric utilities have installed double tariff electricity meters in many homes to encourage people to use their electric power during night time or weekends, when the overall demand from industry is very low. During off-peak time the price is reduced significantly, primarily for heating storage radiators or heat pumps with a high thermal mass, but also for domestic appliances. This idea will be further explored in a smart grid, where the price could be changing in seconds and electric equipment is given methods to react on that. Also, personal preferences of customers, for example to use only green energy, can be incorporated in such a power grid.

The bulk of smart grid technologies are already used in other applications such as manufacturing and telecommunications and are being adapted for use in grid operations. In general, smart grid technology can be grouped into five key areas.

Integrated communications
Some communications are up to date, but are not uniform because they have been developed in an incremental fashion and not fully integrated. In most cases, data is being collected via modem rather than direct network connection. Areas for improvement include: substation automation, demand response, distribution automation, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), energy management systems, wireless mesh networks and other technologies, power-line carrier communications, and fiber-optics. Integrated communications will allow for real-time control, information and data exchange to optimize system reliability, asset utilization, and security.

Sensing and measurement
Core duties are evaluating congestion and grid stability, monitoring equipment health, energy theft prevention, and control strategies support. Technologies include: advanced microprocessor meters (smart meter) and meter reading equipment, wide-area monitoring systems, dynamic line rating (typically based on online readings by Distributed temperature sensing combined with Real time thermal rating (RTTR) systems), electromagnetic signature measurement/analysis, time-of-use and real-time pricing tools, advanced switches and cables, backscatter radio technology, and Digital protective relays.

Smart meters
A smart grid replaces analog mechanical meters with digital meters that record usage in real time. Smart meters are similar to Advanced Metering Infrastructure meters and provide a communication path extending from generation plants to electrical outlets (smart socket) and other smart grid-enabled devices. By customer option, such devices can shut down during times of peak demand.

Phasor measurement units
High speed sensors called PMUs distributed throughout their network can be used to monitor power quality and in some cases respond automatically to them. Phasors are representations of the waveforms of alternating current, which ideally in real-time, are identical everywhere on the network and conform to the most desirable shape. In the 1980s, it was realized that the clock pulses from global positioning system (GPS) satellites could be used for very precise time measurements in the grid. With large numbers of PMUs and the ability to compare shapes from alternating current readings everywhere on the grid, research suggests that automated systems will be able to revolutionize the management of power systems by responding to system conditions in a rapid, dynamic fashion.

Advanced control
Power system automation enables rapid diagnosis of and precise solutions to specific grid disruptions or outages. These technologies rely on and contribute to each of the other four key areas. Three technology categories for advanced control methods are: distributed intelligent agents (control systems), analytical tools (software algorithms and high-speed computers), and operational applications (SCADA, substation automation, demand response, etc). Using artificial intelligence programming techniques, Fujian power grid in China created a wide area protection system that is rapidly able to accurately calculate a control strategy and execute it. The Voltage Stability Monitoring & Control (VSMC) software uses a sensitivity-based successive linear programming method to reliably determine the optimal control solution.


Today's alternating current power grid evolved after 1896, based in part on Nikola Tesla's design published in 1888 (see War of Currents). Many implementation decisions that are still in use today were made for the first time using the limited emerging technology available 120 years ago. Specific obsolete power grid assumptions and features (like centralized unidirectional electric power transmission, electricity distribution, and demand-driven control) represent a vision of what was thought possible in the 19th century.
The term smart grid has been in use since at least 2005, when the article "Toward A Smart Grid", authored by S. Massoud Amin and Bruce F. Wollenberg appeared in the September/October issue of IEEE P&E Magazine (Vol. 3, No.5, pgs 34-41). The term had been used previously and may date as far back as 1998. 

There are a great many smart grid definitions, some functional, some technological, and some benefits-oriented. A common element to most definitions is the application of digital processing and communications to the power grid, making data flow and information management central to the smart grid.
Smart grid technologies have emerged from earlier attempts at using electronic control, metering, and monitoring. In the 1980s, Automatic meter reading was used for monitoring loads from large customers, and evolved into the Advanced Metering Infrastructure of the 1990s, whose meters could store how electricity was used at different times of the day.Smart meters add continuous communications so that monitoring can be done in real time, and can be used as a gateway to demand response-aware devices and "smart sockets" in the home.

Early forms of such Demand side management technologies were dynamic demand aware devices that passively sensed the load on the grid by monitoring changes in the power supply frequency. Devices such as industrial and domestic air conditioners, refrigerators and heaters adjusted their duty cycle to avoid activation during times the grid was suffering a peak condition. 
Beginning in 2000, Italy's Telegestore Project was the first to network large numbers (27 million) of homes using such smart meters connected via low bandwidth power line communication. Recent projects use Broadband over Power Line (BPL) communications, or wireless technologies such as mesh networking that is advocated as providing more reliable connections to disparate devices in the home as well as supporting metering of other utilities such as gas and water.

Monitoring and synchronization of wide area networks were revolutionized the early 1990s when the Bonneville Power Administration expanded its smart grid research with prototype sensors that are capable of very rapid analysis of anomalies in electricity quality over very large geographic areas. The culmination of this work was the first operational Wide Area Measurement System (WAMS) in 2000]. Other countries are rapidly integrating this technology — China will have a comprehensive national WAMS system when its current 5-year economic plan is complete in 2012

First cities with smart grids

The earliest, and still largest, example of a smart grid is the Italian system installed by Enel S.p.A. of Italy. Completed in 2005, the Telegestore project was highly unusual in the utility world because the company designed and manufactured their own meters, acted as their own system integrator, and developed their own system software. The Telegestore project is widely regarded as the first commercial scale use of smart grid technology to the home, and delivers annual savings of 500 million euro at a project cost of 2.1 billion euro. 

In the US, the city of Austin, Texas has been working on building its smart grid since 2003, when its utility first replaced 1/3 of its manual meters with smart meters that communicate via a wireless mesh network. It currently manages 200,000 devices real-time (smart meters, smart thermostats, and sensors across its service area), and expects to be supporting 500,000 devices real-time in 2009 servicing 1 million consumers and 43,000 businesses. Boulder, Colorado completed the first phase of its smart grid project in August 2008. Both systems use the smart meter as a gateway to the home automation network (HAN) that controls smart sockets and devices. Some HAN designers favor decoupling control functions from the meter, out of concern of future mismatches with new standards and technologies available from the fast moving business segment of home electronic devices.

Hydro One, in Ontario, Canada is in the midst of a large-scale Smart Grid initiative, deploying a standards-compliant communications infrastructure from Trilliant. By the end of 2010, the system will serve 1.3 million customers in the province of Ontario. The initiative won the "Best AMR Initiative in North America" award from the Utility Planning Network. 

The City of Mannheim in Germany is using realtime Broadband Powerline (BPL) communications in its Model City Mannheim "MoMa" project

Guidelines and Standards

IEEE 2030.2 represents an extension of the work aimed at utility storage systems for transmission and distribution networks. The IEEE 2030 group expects to deliver early 2011 an overarching set of guidelines on smart grid interfaces. The new guidelines will cover areas including batteries and supercapacitors as well as flywheels. the group has also spun out a 2030.1 effort drafting guidelines for integrating electric vehicles into the smart grid.

IEC TC57 has created a family of international standards that can be used as part of the smart grid. These standards include IEC61850 which is an architecture for substation automation, and IEC 61970/61968 — the Common Information Model (CIM). The CIM provides for common semantics to be used for turning data into information.

The IEEE has created a standard to support synchrophasorsC37.118.
IEEE P2030 is an IEEE project developing a "Draft Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy Technology and Information Technology Operation with the Electric Power System (EPS), and End-Use Applications and Loads" 

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