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Cloud computing enabling more smart grid deployments

By Donna Donnawitz
December 21, 2011
Establishing smart grid networks in place of aging utility infrastructure is a growing trend around the world. However, installing smart meters, network infrastructure and other systems necessary to support smart grid technologies is an expensive task. As a result, deployments have been headlined by major private investment organizations and utilities that have the capital funds necessary to invest in the emerging technology. However, cloud computing is offering cost efficiencies that are making smart grid more accessible for smaller communities, Greenbang reported.

According to the news source, a growing number of towns, villages and boroughs are turning to the cloud to facilitate smart grid software systems and dramatically reduce the costs of investing in the new technology. This allows these local utility providers to focus on the meter and network infrastructure needs of the system, allowing them to invest in more robust infrastructure than they can afford without the cloud.

One example of this movement, according to the report, is the city of Leesburg, Florida. With a population of 20,000, Leesburg is by no means tiny. However, it is still small enough to fall well below the size of the cities making most of the major smart grid investments.

By using cloud computing architectures to support operations, the city of Leesburg has been able to equip its utility system with smart meters that track usage patterns to plan power distribution for peak hours and prevent energy spikes. This helps overcome outages, but is heavily dependent on the ability to collect, track and monitor data. The cloud makes this part of the process cost-efficient, the news source explained.

Norcross, Georgia, a city with just 9,000 residents, has had similar success investing in smart grid technology, the report said. Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson told the news source the investments in smart grid makes the town's community-owned utility system the first in the state to use active energy management systems for its citizens.

Smart grid has the potential to completely revolutionize how electricity and other utilities are delivered. By connecting the electric grid to networking technologies and meters that can more precisely track energy usage patterns, smart grid technologies allow utility providers to carefully control how much power is sent to homes at different times, ensuring enough energy is available during heavy usage periods. Outages can also be limited to smaller regions, making repair and maintenance much simpler.

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