Friday, April 06, 2012
Geographic information systems form the foundation for smart grid
Figuring out what, exactly, the smart grid is built from can be a major challenge. On one hand, investment patterns may make it seem like the smart grid is built on smart meters. But analysis of actual infrastructure makes it clear that smart meters offer little benefit without communications infrastructure that lets them interact with the rest of the utility network. So smart grid is built on the network, but only sort of, as the network is really a transit tool, and the information that it transports is also crucial. According to a recent Pike Research study, geospatial data could prove to be the long-term foundation of the smart grid.
Think about the utility grid for a moment. Try to consider everything that goes into power delivery. The chain begins with electricity generation sites, ranging from massive nuclear power plants to wind farms and even solar panels on tops of homes and commercial buildings. From there, utility cables transport power throughout regions. In some cases, these are built as their own infrastructure on poles, in others they travel below roads as neighborhoods are built, making the traffic infrastructure a key player in utility delivery. Then power destinations come into play, as the cables connect to homes, offices, transformer sites and other locations. Keeping physical tabs on each location is key to making the grid work. As a result, Pike Research explained, geographic data is critical to the grid's ongoing operation.
Because gathering effective geographic information, such as census data, GPS location information, network topology, street maps and even vegetation, is so important to the smart grid's effectiveness, it is key that utility providers invest in solutions to store and analyze this content. According to Pike Research, this will likely lead to significant investments in Geographic Information Systems that combine a diverse range of important technologies to monitor environmental conditions and communicate that data to the utility provider.
Smart grid technologies are emerging as the future of the utility grid, a much needed upgrade to infrastructure that has gone with few major changes in almost a century. As more providers turn to smart grid to enable better utility distribution, data and information distribution systems are becoming more important. As a result, the networking components of smart grid platforms could play a critical role in keeping the grid running at peak capacity.
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