Why robust power system protection is vital to smart grid success




By Ron Willoughby

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What constitutes "smartness” in the smart grid? Common attributes that come to mind include monitoring energy use from smart meters, and storing energy produced from renewable sources to be used by the grid. In fact, smart grid investments favor the development of such applications over infrastructure. However, an even smarter grid also requires close attention to system protection â€" a critical infrastructure component that is sometimes overlooked. 


New applications yield new pressures

New applications cause new pressures on grid performance as this evolution takes place:

  • Increasing volume of data and a need for more advanced analytical tools
  • Increasing demand for clean energy through renewable resource integration
  • Increasing expectations for smart grid capabilities as customers become more aware of the new technologies

Power system protection in the United States is designed for a networked transmission system and radial distribution system for power flows in only one direction. This is not adequate to support the integration of renewables, which requires bi-directional power flows at the distribution level. There may be opportunities to handle protection more cost-effectively at both transmission and distribution levels, by making better use of information collected by the smart grid. There may also be opportunities to improve system reliability and safety performance, and minimize the use of capital dollars, by being more systematic when integrating new and old technologies.


Power system protection = investment protection

It’s imperative we begin to pay closer attention to new system protection strategies. When applications are better matched with practical needs, we will be better positioned to capitalize on smart grid investments. For investments to be sustainable, a fully integrated approach is crucial, and considered by some to be fundamental to sustain smart grid success.


A power system protection strategy for the future needs to focus on matching automation and control technologies to system performance needs. Proactively detecting changes in equipment condition before unplanned problems occur is one example. The cost of a planned outage is much lower than the alternative. Just like the warning lights on a car, a grid operator needs to be warned of potential problems before they occur.


Robust power system protection is vital to smart grid success and sustainability:

·         Maintains high reliability standards while decreasing operating and maintenance costs

·         Facilitates the use of new technologies along with existing, older equipment


Developing enhanced power system protection strategies must become a priority. This will improve risk management, expedite advanced technology applications, safeguard capital investments, and maximize overall smart g

KEMA is conducting an industry survey on system protection to identify highest priority focus areas. To participate, visit: http://tiny.cc/KEMASurvey.

All participants will receive a summary of the findings.  Contact Melissa McCuiston for more information.

rid potential.


Ron Willoughby is Vice President of KEMA, Inc., which is a leading authority in energy consulting and testing and certification.


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