Moving towards Smarter Utilities with Smart Grid Technology...

Moving towards Smarter Utilities with Smart Grid Technology Innovations

By Energy CIO Insights | Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Smart utilities are the need of the hour, and smart grids technologies are helping utilities navigate through a range of deployments.

FREMONT, CA: Electricity distribution systems are undergoing a revamp. The emergence of smart grid technologies is fueling transformations towards better services. There has always been scope for improvements in the sector when it comes to reliability and efficiency. Although complete prevention of outages cannot be a reality at the moment, smart grids are making it possible for utility companies to intertwine transmission grids with backup lines and incorporate load transfer capabilities between adjacent circuits. By enabling intelligent load transfers and automated reconfiguration of circuits, smart grids make power supply less prone to disruptions and make self-recovery practical.

Smart grids, apart from providing alternate routes, multiple switching points, and better communication, also transfer control to end-users. One can manage the consumption of electricity more effectively with smart grids. Making controls a viable option, smart grids promote flexibility and thus, escalating, and falling demands can be easily accommodated. Delivery of electric power to every corner of the world has now become achievable with the help of new technologies that back smart grids and make them even more relevant.

The utilities have seen a shift from conventional to non-conventional sources of energy. The environmental incentives that renewable sources bring are significant. Smart grids are playing an essential role in this transformation by preparing technology and infrastructure that are compatible and integrated. From the smallest startups to the biggest utility firms, everybody is now preparing for intelligent distribution systems using smart grids that will push smooth transfer of energy from renewable sources. Hence, innovations in the sector will be determined by the technological advancements in smart grids.

How the distribution system responds to faults in a regular grid has changed a lot over the years. A fault is usually interrupted and cleared using a fuse, recloser or relayed circuit breaker. There are significant drawbacks in all of these approaches. They are time-taking and inefficient. Even temporary faults result in long durations of disruption in service to the consumers. Reclosing attempts also expose the system to undue thermal and mechanical stresses, which subsequently leads to failures of weaker points and reduction in lifespan for substation transformers.

Pulseclosing is a new and better alternative that has now come about, and one can expect it to become the standard practice shortly. It works by testing whether the fault is present without giving rise to surges that cause feeder stress. Using speedy closing and opening of contact points, it utilizes only the smaller first current loop and interrupts before the major loop occurs. After multiple rounds of pulse, if the mechanism detects the absence of the fault, it restores service. On the other hand, if the error persists, the pulsecloser isolates the fault section.

Smart grid technology is expected to impact distribution systems by enabling self-healing capabilities in them. Many outages that happen do not occur at the grid but the utility poles along roadways or underground cabling systems. By deploying automatic switch controls, distribution systems are equipped to restore connections by themselves, eliminating the need for time-taking human intervention.

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Data is playing a big part in the transformation that is underway in utilities. Smart grid development is accompanied by the development of infrastructure that helps service providers leverage data. Monitors, records, and sensors are giving insightful data to companies and empowering them towards precise controls. High-bandwidth radio systems are allowing operators to remotely configure changes, thereby saving a lot of expenses and time. Mesh network offers superior communication that is required for visibility of traffics. The better the communications, the better are the chances to automate and self-heal electricity services in the energy sector.

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