The Importance of the Smart Grid for Efficient Electricity Production

By: Ganesh Ramjit, Survalent Technology

adms-smart-girdA smart grid is an interconnected web of data collection devices and management applications that provide real-time information about the infrastructure of the electrical grid. It enables electrical utilities to better manage their power generation assets, fix faults faster, anticipate peak demands on the network, reduce capital expenditure, and improve reliability. One of the most important benefits of the smart grid is the ability to integrate smaller distributed energy sources such as those provided by renewable energy.

The smart grid refers to the energy, information, and communication network underlying advanced electricity generation, delivery, and consumption. It enables advanced information metering, monitoring and management. Also, it facilitates the transition from the conventional power grid's physical infrastructure to a digital infrastructure, which is more responsive to customer demands and has the ability to include inputs from a range of power generation sources. Having such information is vital in the role of the electrical utilities today, this information can be used for different types of analysis to meet the demands of not only customers but the regulatory entities of the states.

At its core, the smart grid has an advanced SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system that operates by receiving coded data transmissions from remote equipment to determine their performance and status enabling overview and management of the network as a whole. The use of a SCADA system allows you send coded transmissions to control this equipment remotely in the case of a fault or required change in operating parameters. Today, the presence of SCADA has established strengths in both small rural utilities and large-scale metropolitan utilities operations. The evolution of SCADA can incorporated multiple sites over large and short distances for utilities across the globe. As a result of these advances, the smart grid now have the rewarding ability to gain an overview of a distributed electricity system and to control it as a single entity to maintain optimal operating potential.

One component application that is embedded on the SCADA platform is a Distribution Management System (DMS), which enables modeling and control of the network as a whole. DMS has the capability to monitor the operating state of SCADA at any point; therefore, providing calculations and predictions of future operating states (such as those that occur at peak demand, for example) as well as real time control. Modular applications such as Network Model, Topology Processing and Security Analysis are some of the tools that can be used with DMS to validate network integrity.

This application is a decision supported system that enable controllers of the network to monitor and manage the electricity distribution system as effectively as possible while managing production assets, enhancing reliability, ensuring safety and maintaining quality of services as well.

Some of the common practices of a DMS solution entails day to day operations, development planning and simulation and for analysis of future needs. Data that is acquired needs to be highly scalable and interoperable with existing industry standards. Once the requirements are met, DMS provides real time network control and monitoring, mathematical simulations of the network and power applications, management of faults as they occur, managing voltage improvement, optimizing and reducing investments in infrastructure and building power facilities, reducing power losses and managing peak load, increasing profit and revenue and improving overall power quality and customer satisfaction.

DMS originally is designed as a real-time automation system that supports multiple systems running parallel. Subsystems include a production system, data entry system, testing area, training area and backup system. The hardware operation consists of several computer cells, as well as networking equipment, data and application servers, user interface clients, GPS and support for printers and other network devices. An important element of implementation is the scalability that ranges from server farms to a single computer hosting an entire network. This can have impact on security and disaster recovery so any enactment must take into consideration a customer's security rules - particularly when outside access to sensitive company and customer information is at stake.

Another module of the smart grid includes an Outage Management System (OMS) which enables effective management of faults and incidents power network. This includes recording and management of trouble tickets, optimizing and scheduling use of the work force, keeping a historical record of outage statistics and the ability to predict future incidents based on this information. As part of the package, a Demand Response Management (DRM) system is also used to optimize and schedule resources at times of peak demand. This usually determines the best possible way to provide load balancing at peak generation.

The use of SCADA and its various data collection, network management and human interface components to enable an overall schematic display of a power network on the smart grid, along with showing real time operation status. It includes a data search engine, flexible reporting tools and analysis and simulations of previous and future events. It is an integrated system with a common interface that enables an operator to have visibility into any part of the distribution network.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the driving force behind the MultiSpeak standard has profoundly impacted the smart grid evolution. Having standardized interfaces among common software applications allows integration with ease to multiple platforms. This allows SCADA to bring other systems such GIS to improve the user/operator visibility on your power network and detect previse device geographical coordinates. Aside from GIS, you have other systems such as CIS, AMI, AVL, OA and EA that can be integrated into SCADA using MultiSpeak.

The management systems in SCADA consist of advanced management and control services which is preferred to improve efficiency, reliability, demand profile, utility and emission control. With the advent of advanced management systems in the smart grid, there are likely to be new management services and applications that will revolutionize the way electricity is produced and used by the consumer. For example, the ability to use meters within homes to determine when the most efficient use of electricity is possible or, potentially, the ability to use only renewable energy sources where practicable. Management with ease is ideal across the board. Who wouldn’t want to have the superior ability to manage the smart grid effectively?

The smart grid encompass generators to monitor and control the overall provision of electricity at a higher resolution with many more generation input across a widely distributed network. This means that customers should be able to buy cheaper, more reliable and (potentially) greener energy that has higher quality from the grid because of the absence of outages.

Some of the existing electrical grid systems today cannot gather real time information from the grid. Those that are not able to reap the benefits of smart grid advances to enable real time information to be transmitted between all elements of the grid. They have yet to realize how operations can be more efficient and seamless because they have the flexibility to react to events as they occur. It enables management of the logistics on the grid and its reaction to events from a range of devices such as high-frequency switching devices on a microsecond scale, wind and solar generation variations on an hourly basis, and the possible effects of carbon emissions generated over decades.

The smart grid also promises to take advantage of new technologies such as distributed electrical generation, control of lighting management systems, distributed automation, smart metering in homes and incorporation of electric vehicles among others. As new modernizations bring about change, the importance of the smart grid progression will continue to grow and heighten the power industry.