Smart grids are revolutionizing the way energy is distributed and consumed. With the integration of advanced technologies such as smart meters and renewable energy sources, smart grids are able to improve energy efficiency, increase reliability and reduce costs for consumers. In this article, we will explore the many advantages of a smart grid and how they can benefit both individuals and society as a whole.
Advantages of Smart Grid
The major advantages of smart grid are:
1. Reduction in transmission congestion
Smart grids can support the modernization of the electricity grid by enabling the integration of new technologies such as distributed generation and renewable energy sources. This can help to improve the overall efficiency, reliability and sustainability of the electricity system.
When renewable generation is located near load centers, the generated power can be consumed locally instead of hauling it from large power plants through transmission lines. This reduces the currents in the transmission lines, thus allowing for extra customers to be connected to the existing line instead of constructing new ones.
2. Reduced blackouts and forced outages
The Department of Energy estimated that the “power outages and fluctuations cost US businesses and consumers $30 billion each year”.
The main cause for the outages is when the demand and generation are not equal, either because of inadequate generation or the lack of available transmission lines that can haul power to the customers. If more renewable generations are present near load centers, there is less dependency on generation from large utilities and less dependency on transmission lines.
The power system is extensively monitored, but the measurements do not cover the entire grid and the overwhelming data is extremely hard to process at the national grid level. The improvements in the capabilities of monitoring devices and their data communications as well as their data security will allow algorithms to better monitor the power grid and predict problems ahead of time. When problems occur, the system can quickly identify the source and location of the problems.
With better monitoring systems and with more automation in power grids, it is possible for the grid to automatically reconfigure its network to restore power quickly. The self-healing feature of the smart grid includes the intelligence to ensure the safety of grid workers and the general public. Improved monitoring and decision support systems will quickly identify problems and hazards. The ability to identify equipment that is on the verge of failure is certain to save lives and reduce severe injuries.
5. Reduction in restoration time
With self-healing, the grid can restore itself automatically instead of manually restoration. The smart grid will perform continuous self-assessments to detect, analyze, respond to and as needed, restore grid components or network sections.
6. Peak demand shaving
Utilities purchase energy during peak times from other utilities. The cost of this energy is part of the rate structure of customers’ bills. If technologies are developed to allow customers to reduce their demands during these times without inconveniencing them, this can potentially save costs to utilities and customers.
7. Increased system capacity
When generation resources and transmission lines are less used, the capacity of the grid increases. Thus, more customers and more demands can be added without elaborate expansion of the infrastructure.
8. Increased power system security
Smart grids can use advanced cybersecurity measures to protect against cyberattacks and other threats to the electricity system. This can help to ensure the continued reliability and safety of the electricity supply.
With local generation and less dependency on transmission infrastructure, the system security is improved. The loss of a transmission line feeding an area with a local generation will have a lesser impact than the case without a local generation.
9. Efficient usage of hybrid and electric vehicles
Smart grids can enable the integration of electric vehicles (EVs) into the electricity system by providing real-time information about charging availability and prices, as well as automatically adjusting charging schedules to optimize the use of renewable energy.
If electric vehicle (EV) penetration is high enough, it could cause a stability problem as a large number of vehicles could be plugged into the power grid after people arrive from work between 5 and 7 pm. This is because the load could rapidly increase beyond system limits. Adjustable charging techniques can address this problem.
10. Environmental benefits
Reduced losses enabled by a smart grid will enable delivery companies to reduce the amount of generation (and hence emissions) needed to serve a given load. Similarly, consumers will be equipped and motivated to more effectively conserve energy, again reducing the amount of generation and emission. And with increased knowledge of the smart grid’s state, advanced storage and new control devices, system operators will be able to integrate additional intermittent renewable generation beyond what can be done with today’s grid.
11. Market empowerment
A smart grid involves consumers by engaging them as active participants in the electricity market. It will help empower utilities to match evolving consumer expectations and deliver greater visibility and choice in energy purchasing. It will generate demand, for cost-saving and energy-saving products. Smart grids will help educate the average consumer, foster innovation in new energy management services and reduce the costs and environmental impact of the delivery of electricity.
12. Storage options
Smart grids can enable the use of electricity storage systems such as batteries and flywheels, to store excess electricity for use during times of high demand. This can help to smooth out fluctuations in electricity supply and demand and improve the overall stability of the electricity system.
13. Microgrid development
Smart grids can enable the development of small-scale microgrids, local electricity grids that can operate independently from the larger grid. This can improve the resilience and reliability of the electricity system in the event of a disruption to the main grid.
14. Economic benefits
Smart grids can bring economic benefits by creating jobs in the fields of technology, engineering and construction, as well as by reducing the overall cost of electricity for consumers.
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