Smart Grids and Micro-Grids

 

   


About EVFinder   EVents Calendar    FAQ    EV Selector   Links    The EV Finder Archive Site Map Blog


Sunday June 6, 2021 Ė Smart Grids and Micro-Grids -- When we walk into a room and flip the light-switch we take it for granted that the light is going to come on. It really isnít that simple though, there is a lot of things that have to happen to make sure that the electrical energy to illuminate that light bulb happens. It all works because of the electric grid.When we walk into a room and flip the light-switch we take it for granted that the light is going to come on. It really isnít that simple though, there is a lot of things that have to happen to make sure that the electrical energy to illuminate that light bulb happens. It all works because of the electric grid.

The electric grid consists of over 9,200 electric generator units connected by more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines. These lines link the generator capacity to substations and transformers that eventually deliver electricity to homes, offices, and factories within the stable voltage range required by the appliances that utilize this electrical energy.

The electrical grid is a balancing act and it attempts to match supply with demand. Too much supply and the excess energy is converted into heat within the grid which will eventually lead to failures. Too little supply and the voltage drops too low for appliances etc. to use and the grid has to shut down.

The effects of over-supply can usually be seen as sagging transmission lines which expand due to overheating. The solution is to cut down on generating capacity by shutting down generating units. Under-supply can be indicated by dimming lights as voltage drops and is solved by bringing additional generation, usually known as Peaker plants, online. When there are no more Peaker plants to bring online, sections of the grid must be shut down in a process known as rolling blackouts.

Smart grids attempt to alleviate these problems using sophisticated software and intelligent appliances to control the supply and load on the grid. For example, during exceptionally hot weather in California high use of air conditioning can place such a high load on the grid that rolling blackouts have to be initiated. With a smart grid, intelligent thermostats can be controlled to cycle A/C off and on to allow to stay relatively cool while reducing the strain on the grid caused by high A/C usage.

In times when demand is low it can be increased using smart technology to do things like start up EV charging stations where EVs are plugging in to be charged. This usually means lower costs to the EV driver. This may prevent the need to bleed off energy generated by power plants that take a long time to restart (for example nuclear generation capacity).
.
Control of the grid can also be used to make sure that the lowest cost methods of producing electricity are utilized first. It can also be used to take older, more polluting generating facilities off line when not required.

The growth of solar or wind energy has also opened up a new opportunity, micro-grids.

Micro-grids are small grid structures that can be utilized in settings such as villages or large complexes. For a remote village not connected to the national grid, a micro grid could provide electricity for everyone in the village. The basis behind the power generation may be a solar array or windmill that is connected to a large battery storage unit. The battery system is then linked via Inverter to a grid that supports all the buildings in the village.

Eventually, when the grid reaches the village, the micro-grid can be connected to it to provide a smoother electricity for the village. The same concept can be used for a housing complex of factory.

The use of smart grids can also be used to vulnerability to hacking. The loss of fuel after a pipeline carrying gasoline from Texas to the gulf coast was shut down due to a ransomware attack caused massive disruption on the east coast. When such a situation threatens the micro-grid can be isolated and continue to provide electricity to the utilitiesí customers.

In order to optimize the electricity grid to reduce fuel usage and enhance stability in a future mostly driven by supplies of renewable energy, large expenditure is going to be required to make the grid smarter and utilize more micro-grids.

 

Next I will explore Plugging Leaks


If you want to comment on this topic, email me, but please include your Name, City and State or Country


Follow evfinder.com on Twitter