Tag Archives: Smart Grid

Renewable Energy: Sunny Skies or Gridlocked?

It’s nice to see that the energy industry is starting to address some of the glaring problems that are out there such as energy shortage, depletion of domestic oil and gas reserves, and lack of incentives to invest in domestic energy facilities to name a few.  Renewable energy is moving front and center to become THE next energy resource. However, the solutions are not without their challenges. Energy generation and delivery still needs a good solid look as the cost to save one kW of energy using a renewable energy resource is approximately $0.11/kW, while saving that same kW through energy efficiency in existing building and homes is only at $0.03/kW.

The challenge with renewable energy is integrating it into the power grid. With the emergence of smart meters, we can see where the power is going at any given place and time. This will help to put a focus on generating plant production at the right place and at the right time. With that said, renewable energy does not have the luxury of turning itself on or off (reducing the demand that could be placed on the electrical grid). In addition, the business model for renewable energy is most effective when it is operating for the longest time possible.

Renewable energy should be baseloaded with the power generation plants to pick up on any energy swings. Smart meters would be able to anticipate when those swings will happen. The dilemma occurs when the renewable energy source does not produce enough to reach the level they were intended to produce. This can happen when units go down for maintenance, break down or don’t produce enough megawatts because the wind is not blowing or the sun is not out.

Programs like demand response can help lessen the high demand on the power grid. Having a program to reduce the peak load on the grid through end-user participation is helpful. However, when the response event comes at an inopportune time or cannot be incorporated due to other circumstances, this puts additional variables into the equation that makes renewable energy less desirable or predictable.

Energy monitoring is a great way to promote energy consumption awareness to determine the Where, Why and at What point a facility is using energy. This will allow for energy efficiency awareness and enable facility operators to be proactive. But once again, the end-user must know what to do with all the data that they are receiving. Knowing where your energy consumption stands is great, but knowing what to do with all the data once you have it is the key to energy reduction. Finding a solution to analyze the data will really help a facility to control its energy consumption. The amount of data produced is astronomical and unless the data is analyzed and trended on a regular basis, it will be of little to no value. A process needs to be developed that addresses how to use analyze and interpret the data.

All of these items and their challenges are important as we move forward to solve this country’s energy needs. These challenges can not be avoided and they need to be navigated with viable solutions. Coordinating all of the solutions together will put us in a better position for our electric infrastructure. Always have a contingency plan so that you don’t fail to plan; and be prepared so that you don’t plan to fail.

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Filed under Energy, energy consumption, energy monitoring, energy usage, renewable energy, smart grid, smart meters

Smart Grid…What’s the Big Deal?

If Thomas Edison were alive today, he would probably agree that not a whole lot has changed since his design of the electrical distribution system in America. As the pioneer behind electricity and electrical distribution, he would be disappointed that we have not made more progress in the evolution of electricity.

Many may wonder exactly how electricity is transmitted. Electricity is transmitted across a vast network of wires called the electrical grid. Power plants feed this electrical grid and allow for the production of power. Currently, electricity is bought and produced by the power plant with the least amount of cost associated with it regardless of where it is located. However, there is a price to transmit that power. Costs increase when electricity travels over greater distances due to resistance it encounters during the transmission.

Technology has changed over time giving us access to an abundance of information. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where and when we are using energy in this country? The electrical grid is about to embark on a major overhaul in the way we distribute electricity. We are about to make our electrical distribution system “smart,” thus enabling the re-routing of electricity to areas with greater demands for power.

The smart grid will communicate with power plants by raising or lowering outputs to match usage locally. It will also decipher which customers need more electricity and direct the proper amount to customers in real time. Plants will be able to produce power locally, thus reducing the costs associated with transmitting electricity over a long distance. This will allow for a more efficient electrical distribution system.

For example, if a group of buildings in Philadelphia requires a certain amount of electricity at 10:30am, the grid will have the capacity to anticipate the load adjustment and respond accordingly. This can also allow the customer to purchase its electricity more intelligently based on the time of day when they use the most electricity instead of having it available all the time.

Peak demand is a term used to define the highest energy usage of a facility at any given time. More power is consumed, potentially causing power plants to increase output beyond their optimum efficiency. Electric utilities will then charge more for the delivered electricity. This high cost of electricity is monitored by every facility manager in the country and should be avoided as it impacts their energy budgets.

The smart grid can help us understand how we consume energy so proper mechanisms can be put in place to adjust peak loads and conserve energy. Being smart about our energy consumption will allow us to keep energy usage and costs down.

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Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, Electrical Distribution, energy efficiency, Uncategorized