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Jonathan Matusky, Business Development Associate
07 Jun, 2012

Making the Grid Smarter with Smart Energy Storage: Part 1

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to get electricity from where it is produced to where it is consumed. There’s an entire network of energy producers, distributors, traders, monitors, and regulators making sure the grid runs smoothly. So why the big push to make the grid smarter? Is our grid really so dumb to begin with?

The problem with the current grid infrastructure is that there is no communication between electricity consumers and electricity producers. Enabling communication between these two groups provides four major benefits to the grid:

  • Increased efficiency: During times of peak demand, grid coordinators turn on rarely-used, inefficient, expensive generation sources. This will be avoided by reducing energy use during peak levels of consumption.
  • Decreased capital investment: Grid operators size generation for peak levels demand. As a result, assets are under-utilized during off-peak hours. Smart grid technology will better utilize assets, reducing or preventing the need to build additional infrastructure.
  • Greater renewable penetration: Renewable energy is inherently unpredictable, particularly when energy sources are small and distributed. A smart grid will manage and integrate these energy sources to ensure that the power produced is efficiently consumed.
  • Increased reliability: Smart grid technology will improve the reliability of the grid by better managing resources during normal operation and reacting quickly in times of crisis.

So how do we get there? What does it take to make the grid “smart”? To realize the benefits of a smart grid, we need a system that can support:

  • Self-healing: If a critical transmission line fails on the current grid, it can cause a domino effect and take out the entire grid, causing a blackout. Smart grid technology will help prevent this by creating points of redundancy throughout the network.
  • Flexible Distribution: The grid must be able to handle bidirectional energy flow to ensure small-scale, distributed generation is used optimally.
  • Load Adjustment: The current grid handles rapid, unexpected shifts in demand keeping a large number of generators on standby. Smart grid would handle this by managing the loads. Demand response providers are an example of this.
  • Load shifting: The average daily load contains a peak which drives the sizing of all generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. The ability to shift this daily peak would create tremendous flexibility in the planning and deployment of future infrastructure.

There are many changes that need to take place in order to make the the grid smarter. One of the most important elements is the introduction of grid-scale energy storage. Energy storage on the smart grid will support faster reaction times, enable flexible distribution, allow for rapid load adjustment, and shift loads on a daily basis. We’ll continue this discussion on energy storage on the smart grid in our next post.

Learn more about how batteries can help the grid by checking out our applications page.