Early adoption of Smart Grid can deliver cost, quality benefits

The Obama Administration stimulus package proposed a strategic investment to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future. The plan includes investments in renewable generation, grants to institutional entities for energy sustainability and reimbursement for qualifying projects enabling the transition from the nation’s current outdated electricity grid to a new digital grid.

03/01/2009


The Obama Administration stimulus package proposed a strategic investment to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future. The plan includes investments in renewable generation, grants to institutional entities for energy sustainability and reimbursement for qualifying projects enabling the transition from the nation’s current outdated electricity grid to a new digital grid: the Smart Grid.

 

Large manufacturing and distribution facilities, specifically sites suited for renewable generation, have an excellent opportunity to team up with utilities on renewable generation development and Smart Grid applications deployment. Such projects can garner significant cost benefits of government reimbursement and quality benefits of real-time Demand Response data, increased energy efficiency, improved energy reliability and improved environmental profile.

 

Smart Grid infrastructure drastically improves the ability to automate Demand Response programs between utilities and large energy customers, allowing the flow of real-time information between utilities and customers. Higher visibility into dispatchable loads during peak times provides a utility with the information needed to determine when it is best to reduce load, turn on generation or purchase energy from the market, helping to control costs and minimize rate increases.

 

Distributed generation

Similar to Demand Response initiatives, Smart Grid infrastructure enables cost-effective collaboration with distributed generation. Distributed generation, implemented by large energy users or a utility, is when electrical energy is generated in smaller amounts geographically close to the customer load. Beneficial impacts of renewable distributed generation by a large energy user consist of offloading a utility’s overloaded infrastructure (power reliability) while simultaneously meeting the utility’s regulatory requirements for renewable generation.

 

Examples of renewable distributed generation include wind or solar generation located at a distribution warehouse where the power is used by the warehouse and any additional energy generated is routed back to the grid.

 

A utility’s ability to precisely predict energy demand is very limited, so preparing supply for every possible contingency is not always possible. Periods of extremely high demand within one region can cause power disruptions in the grid affecting other regions, resulting in rolling blackouts.

 

To help utilities and customers better address peak demand in the transmission and distribution networks, Smart Grid infrastructure uses advanced digital techniques. These include such ideas as turning on distributed generation, turning on larger energy users’ back-up generators, tapping into distributed network storage and enacting Demand Response programs. Doing this provides a dual benefit to energy users by minimizing costs costs and increasing power reliability.

 

Environmental profile 

A facility looking to boost its environmental profile can experience higher utilization of renewable energy source generation from Smart Grid. According to the European Wind Energy Association, integrating wind or solar power into the grid at scale at levels higher than 20%, will require advanced energy management techniques and approaches at the grid operator level.

 

Smart Grid’s ability to dynamically monitor and manage all sources of power on the grid increases the ability of a utility to adapt to the dynamic demands including generation on the transmission and distribution networks. This opens the door for facilities to better realize the benefits of renewable energy resources.

 

To help utilities and customers better address peak demand in the transmission and distribution networks, Smart Grid infrastructure uses advanced digital technologies such as turning on distributed generation, turning on larger energy users’ back-up generators, tapping into distributed network storage and enacting demand response programs minimizing costs and increasing power reliability for energy users.

 

Solar thermal collectors capture solar heat, which is used to heat water that produces steam, driving a turbine connected to an electrical generator, thus generating electricity. According to the European Wind Energy Association, integrating wind or solar power into the grid at scale at levels higher than 20% will require advanced energy management techniques and approaches at the grid operator level.

 

Microturbines are small combustion turbines that produce between 25 kW and 500 kW of power. Used in distributed generation solutions, recuperated microturbines recover the heat from the exhaust gas to boost the temperature of combustion and increase efficiency.

 

Author Information

Tom Hulsebosch is a member of the management team at West Monroe Partners, where he develops and leads the firm’s Energy & Utilities practice. West Monroe Partners helps utilities and large energy users understand Smart Grid and distributed generation solutions.



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