Friday, November 09, 2012
Smart grid expectations should be high, but let''s be realistic
Smart grid technologies offer a revolutionary approach to running the utility grid. If you don't believe me and think I'm just using marketing speak to make the smart grid sound cooler than it really is, think about this - the current architecture used in the power grid in the United States, and much of the world, is widely recognized as being about a century old.
You see, when our forefathers first realized they could harness electricity for light and similar wonderful things, they started constructing methods to deliver that to homes and businesses around the country. Starting in cities, but eventually spreading, utility wires on big poles started going up all over the country. The energy providers started buying power from generation sites and delivering it over this network. We may now have a few cool gadgets to make this easier, but the utility industry pretty much does the same thing today.
Smart grid can revolutionize this. But this truly industry-changing technology won't change things right away and utility providers, consumers and industry stakeholders need to keep their expectations in check.
Controlling the smart grid hype
In a recent blog, industry expert Rick Nicholson described a vision for smart grid solutions in which the United States is served through a variety of microgrids that are interconnected and highly responsive. This allows one microgrid to shut down during an outage, leaving only a few people without power while the rest of the grid works perfectly. According to a recent Smart Grid News report, Nicholson's projection about the smart grid is right on target, but it's also a couple of decades away. That vision, however, is what many people expect the smart grid to do now, and there's just too much that needs to happen first.
Instead, the report said, you should look to the smart grid to provide a few key improvements to the energy grid over the next few years while the broad microgrid vision gradually becomes a reality. These upgrades include the ability to intelligently report outages and limit their reach, keep customers more informed about grid conditions and accelerate outage recovery in general.
All of these short- and long-term ideals for smart grid are made possible by a combination of advanced technologies, including serial to Ethernet media conversion tools. These solutions allow utility-focused serial-based hardware to work seamlessly within the Ethernet architecture needed to enable the core functionality of the smart grid.
Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.