A smart grid is a modernized electrical grid that uses analogue or digital information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviours of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.
Smart grid policy is organized in Europe as Smart Grid European Technology Platform. Policy in the United States is described in 42 U.S.C. ch. 152, subch. IX § 17381.
Roll-out of smart grid technology also implies a fundamental re-engineering of the electricity services industry, although typical usage of the term is focused on the technical infrastructure Features of the smart grid
The smart grid represents the full suite of current and proposed responses to the challenges of electricity supply. Because of the diverse range of factors there are numerous competing taxonomies and no agreement on a universal definition. Nevertheless, one possible categorisation is given here.
The smart grid will make use of technologies, such as state estimation, that improve fault detection and allow self-healing of the network without the intervention of technicians. This will ensure more reliable supply of electricity, and reduced vulnerability to natural disasters or attack.
Although multiple routes are touted as a feature of the smart grid, the old grid also featured multiple routes. Initial power lines in the grid were built using a radial model, later connectivity was guaranteed via multiple routes, referred to as a network structure. However, this created a new problem: if the current flow or related effects across the network exceed the limits of any particular network element, it could fail, and the current would be shunted to other network elements, which eventually may fail also, causing a domino effect. See power outage. A technique to prevent this is load shedding by rolling blackout or voltage reduction (brownout).
Flexibility in network topology
Next-generation transmission and distribution infrastructure will be better able to handle possible bidirection energy flows, allowing for distributed generation such as from photovoltaic panels on building roofs, but also the use of fuel cells, charging to/from the batteries of electric cars, wind turbines, pumped hydroelectric power, and other sources.
Classic grids were designed for one-way flow of electricity, but if a local sub-network generates more power than it is consuming, the reverse flow can raise safety and reliability issues. A smart grid aims to manage these situations.
Numerous contributions to overall improvement of the efficiency of energy infrastructure are anticipated from the deployment of smart grid technology, in particular including demand-side management, for example turning off air conditioners during short-term spikes in electricity price. The overall effect is less redundancy in transmission and distribution lines, and greater utilisation of generators, leading to lower power prices.
Load adjustment/Load balancing
The total load connected to the power grid can vary significantly over time. Although the total load is the sum of many individual choices of the clients, the overall load is not a stable, slow varying, increment of the load if a popular television program starts and millions of televisions will draw current instantly. Traditionally, to respond to a rapid increase in power consumption, faster than the start-up time of a large generator, some spare generators are put on a dissipative standby mode. A smart grid may warn all individual television sets, or another larger customer, to reduce the load temporarily (to allow time to start up a larger generator) or continuously (in the case of limited resources). Using mathematical prediction algorithms it is...
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