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Pinning a number to smart grid's efficiency gains

By Donna Donnawitz
January 22, 2013

As smart grid has gained prominence in recent years, many industry pundits with a somewhat pessimistic view of the technology have stood back talking about how everybody's going to regret the smart grid when we see how much it costs. The equation here is simple, the smart grid is ridiculously expensive and requires a huge change in how utility companies operate, meaning lots of short-term disruption for long-term gains. Recent efforts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology could quietthose anti-smart grid voices.

Normally, the short-term problems leading to major improvements is a positive thing, but there's been one big issue with smart grid - nobody could really measure just how much money it could save.

You see, the smart grid does lots of really cool stuff when it comes to improving energy efficiency, providing visibility into how power is used, enabling renewable resource use and giving consumers more control over how they use electricity. However, all of these benefits are primarily theoretical because smart grid is only used on a small scale. There are also plenty of variables involved in the smart grid efficiency equation that have made it difficult to measure how much money, or energy, will actually be saved using the technology. Well, the NIST recently came out with an estimate. Speaking at the University of Toledo,George Arnold, national coordinator for smart grid interoperability, told audiences how much money the smart grid could save, and the number is staggering, the Toledo Blade reported.

The news source explained that most estimates pertaining to smart grid round out to a cost of approximately $338 billion to build a national smart gird. Yeah, that's probably a lot of money. But if Arnold is right, it will look like nothing compared to what the smart grid will do. He told audiences at Toledo University that a national smart grid would create approximately $2 trillion in energy savings by the time 2030 rolls around, and that is not including the $80 billion annually that would be saved on grid maintenance.

Smart grid accomplishes all of this through the alignment of IT and utility-specific technology. This often means that Ethernet network infrastructure is needed to transmit data to utility providers and support the workflows of automation and reporting systems. However, a significant number of field setups within the electric grid are built on serial connectivity. As a result, many experts agree that serial to Ethernet media converters are emerging as vital tools in supporting smart grid innovation.

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.


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