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Yes, the utility grid is that outdated, but smart grid upgrades can help

By Donna Donnawitz
March 6, 2012
Smart grid is shaping up as the first major innovation to hit the global utility system in the past hundred years, but progress cannot be fully realized until utility providers invest in the network hardware systems necessary to make the advance to the new technology possible, the EE Times reported.

According to the news source, cabling is one of the few things that will not be a problem when it comes to smart grid deployment. For the most part, utility-based optical and power lines can handle the diverse functions included within smart gird and similar technologies that it enables. These capabilities include traffic light monitoring and control, commands to actuators, measurement performance and check system functions.

Network systems that are widely installed can also support the smart grid's home network requirements. Consumer infrastructure can enable home automation and other processes that make the smart grid tick, the report said.

The problem is that there are boatloads of supplementary hardware systems that are absolutely essential to getting the smart grid running. The news source explained that network investments that make connectivity between network technologies that are not built to get along with each other will be key to allowing smart grid solutions to change the way the utility gird functions.

If these systems are installed effectively, the smart grid could unlock major benefits. For example, the report said two-way communications between buildings and the utility provider are unlocked by the technology, allowing for more direct connectivity to power generation locations, especially renewable resources. The added intelligence provided by the network connection also allows the grid to notice when the power has left a neighborhood without electricity and take measures to heal itself and limit the problem. This capability also allows the grid to only deliver the amount of energy needed, optimizing the energy efficiency of the utility setup.

Smart grid is a true revolution of the utility infrastructure, and the utility industry is starting to pay close attention. Many experts agree that the technology was on the periphery during the past few years as providers gathered funds and planned investments. Now, the smart grid is the center of attention for many providers, which will lead to significant progress in terms of actual projects in the sector.

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