Are we asking too much of the smart grid?

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By: SGN Staff

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Quick Take: Rick Nicholson correctly points out that our long-term future is what I will call "federated microgrids." Many small to mid-sized microgrids trading power back and forth and islanding themselves when needed due to outages in the main grid.

 

But that future is a long ways away – probably two decades until full build out. There is much the smart grid can do for us in the meantime. Things that can occur even if big sections of the grid are out of commission. Here are just four ways that occur to me. Please use the TalkBack form below to suggest others.

  • Self-healing technologies can isolate small problems before they become big ones
  • Last-gasp messages from smart meters can give the utility a much better idea where the outage is centered
  • Automated systems can deliver outage and restoration notifications via text message, email, fax, or recorded voice (and keep trying until systems are restored
  • Storm progress Web sites where residents can see exactly what's going on (check out Long Island Power Authority for a great example at lipower.org/stormcenter)  - By Jesse Berst

Among the many analysts trying to assess the smart grid and its real potential in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is Rick Nicholson, an analyst for IDC Energy Insights. In a recent blog, he made some very interesting points in his discussion of what we should be thinking about to lessen or avoid similar disasters in the future – and what we can reasonably expect from the smart grid.

 

One striking example he cites is Pepco, the utility that serves the Washington, D.C. area. The utility was using smart meters to more quickly pinpoint outages and to verify that power had been restored. He points out the obvious to make his case: You need an electric grid to do that, and large chunks of the grid in New York and New Jersey were torn apart – and communications networks, a smart grid foundation, can also be knocked out by big storms.

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