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Smart grid enables sustainability gains

By Donna Donnawitz
April 26, 2012
Governments around the world are working to decrease carbon emissions and bring about meaningful change in the amount of energy consumed. These efforts are largely aimed at dealing with the climate change issues affecting the world, and smart grid is emerging as a foundational technology in the movement, Engineering and Technology Magazine reported.

According to the news source, it will be nearly impossible to meet global climate change goals without implementing new technologies that dramatically reduce carbon emissions and preserve energy. However, the real world development of low-carbon technologies is highly dependent on the implementation of smart grid platforms.

The power grid is at the center of the climate change efforts because the ability to use renewable resources and low-carbon solutions is severely limited by outdated grid technology. Because of this, the report explained that the smart grid is capable of managing and monitoring power delivery through every phase, from the generation source to its eventual destination. The problem is that implementing smart grid technologies can be extremely challenging because the system needs to penetrate every aspect of the utility grid. This requires getting smart grid to work within setups that are decades old and with newly deployed solutions, without sacrificing interoperability, according to Engineering and Technology Magazine.

While the challenge is substantial, the potential of smart grid is considerable. The news source said that smart grid will enable more effective and widespread use of electric vehicles and renewable resources. At the same time, it will also serve as a replacement to aging infrastructure that not only struggles to meet demand in many areas, but is becoming difficult to maintain efficiently.

The smart grid's ability to enable renewable energy use could be among the greatest gains offered by the technology. Thermal and hydroelectric energy are among the few non-variable renewable resources available. The problem with these energy sources is that they are only available in limited geographical locations and cannot easily be leveraged at a large scale. This makes solar and wind power more attractive for major power requirements. The problem is that solar and wind energy are variable in nature, meaning the amount of power generated at any time is somewhat unpredictable.

The current utility grid cannot handle the variable nature of solar and wind power. Smart grid can. By carefully monitoring energy use patterns throughout the grid and communicating that to utility providers and power generation sites, the smart grid can be used to gain control over power generated by variable renewable sources.

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