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What Are the Six Features of a Smart Grid?

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Smart grids combine legacy energy production, distribution processes, and infrastructure with modern technologies, including data collection and distributed energy resources. In line with global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, smart grids improve energy efficiency, increase grid power resilience, and reduce the carbon footprint of our energy usage.

While the growth of smart grids worldwide has often grabbed headlines for leveraging innovative new technologies or programs, all smart grids are generally built on the same fundamental principles and features. This blog will look at six common features of smart grids.

1. A Focus on Data

One of the primary features of smart grids, and doing most to give it its “smart” name, is the enhanced integration of data collection, processing, and sharing at all levels of the energy system. In terms of physical infrastructure, Internet of Things (IoT )sensors provide real-time information about electrical plant generation and transmission equipment. Since smart grids are holistic, this data is also provided to end users so individuals can understand their own energy usage or, on a larger scale, cities can get a better idea of factors like street lighting, traffic flows, or heat retention possibilities.

2. Enhanced Market Optimization

A central regulator of the demand for any resource or good is its price, and smart grids use this market concept to optimize energy use and production over a 24-hour cycle. Two core technologies are driving this: Demand Response and Dynamic Demand. These technologies use sensors to balance or “even out” supply and demand within a smart grid by programming devices to adjust their energy use depending on grid needs. Examples of this would be municipal batteries delaying charging or data centers putting off tasks until late at night or, conversely, starting tasks if there is a sudden surge of energy from renewables.

3. Improved Grid Power Resilience

Several elements contribute to better power resilience in smart grids. The expanded use of data assists greatly in identifying problematic situations and remedying them before they become critical. This pattern recognition for energy creation and transmission assets also allows the creation of a predictive maintenance schedule, which can save organizations millions of dollars in costs, reduce downtime, and extend equipment lifetimes. Integrating distributed energy (e.g., photovoltaic solar and wind) and expanded battery usage creates several energy sources that feed the grid and improve grid power resilience.

4. Upgraded Current Systems

While replacing the current grid is neither feasible nor necessary, for smart grids to function effectively and deliver energy efficiency and power resilience, targeted upgrades of critical assets are required. An example is upgrading electrical switchgear to monitor and control power throughput, which is especially important when dealing with multiple energy sources. Smart grids will also incorporate storage systems that will reduce the waste of renewable energy (such as when a turbine is at maximum output, but there is no demand for the energy) and provide a reserve of energy to add to grid power resilience.

5. Broader Energy Generation

The move to low-carbon, renewable energy sources, while long being promoted as a solution to fossil fuel reliance, has been seriously hampered by efficiency issues. For example, global wind power averages 38% efficiency and solar photovoltaic (PV) less than 20%, which is much lower than coal or hydrocarbons. Smart grids provide the solution to this gap through better demand flattening. Demand Response and Dynamic Demand can also pick up extra load during high generation times. However, the improvements in battery technology and technologies like hydrogen conversion will provide the greatest boon for renewables, allowing much higher capture of energy produced. Grid power resilience is also significantly strengthened by the addition of large capacity energy storage technologies like pumped storage.

6. Universal Standards

Smart grids are about expanding interoperability to create as unified an energy system as possible. While this means increased data sharing for producers, distributors, and consumers, it also means the development of universal standards for physical equipment and technology, such as open-standard security protocols. Electrical equipment standards help improve operator safety while decreasing the risk of damage and downtime for reasons such as short circuits or overvoltage. This can be seen in the specifications for UL508A control panels, which are obligated as a security standard in various industrial and electrical environments. In addition, interoperability of digital security standards enables data sharing between multiple parties while maintaining administrator control and preventing data breaches.

Get Smart -- Now

Smart grids integrate modern technologies into the production and distribution of power to deliver efficiency in how power is used, reducing waste and carbon emissions. Several elements contribute to this, such as broadening power sources, using data to optimize energy usage through Demand Response and Dynamic Demand, and giving end-users greater transparency about their energy usage.

Smart grids also mean improvements in the physical infrastructure transmitting power, such as advanced electrical switchgear allowing remote monitoring and control and UL508A control panels reducing hazardous situations. In addition, grid power resilience is improved through AI-driven predictive maintenance schedules and large-scale energy storage capacity integration.

To learn more about how Enercon Engineering is making the smart grids of the future a reality today, read more about our engineering and fabrication capabilities or talk to our team about your project.


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