7 Smart Grid Solutions – Companies Heralding the Age of Smart Energy
Did you know that the power grid that supplies your home with electricity was developed back in the 20th Century? Old, right? This is how it works. The main power plant generating electricity: be it wind, solar, nuclear, coal, hydro or natural gas, supplies the national grid with the “juice” which will then be distributed to local utility stations. This is where the voltage is then “stepped down”, to a much sustainable amount, so that your TV does not “fry”. This is a lengthy and ineffective process if you ask me, but, there is now a “smarter,” more effective solution: A smart grid.
What is a Smart Grid?
A smart grid is a distribution system that is more consumer based (unlike the current system that we have now) which heavily relies on bi-directional communication that is continuously fine-tuning the smart energy delivery to your residence, ensuring that the process is cost effective and efficient to the highest possible amounts. This is why it’s smart. The system gauges the condition of the grid, collects data all the time and then decides what has to be done so that the smart energy provision is efficient.
The current process of distributing power to homes and stores is becoming worn-out. To put this into perspective, the new electrical appliances in your home, such as the washing machine, dishwashers, personal computers, high-definition TV’s, refrigerators and oven are more sensitive to power surges. The thing is, the technology is developing, but the power supply is lagging behind. The more we continue to add electrical appliances and IoT devices in our homes, the more unreliable the grid becomes. Soon, the grid will be unable to sustain our needs. It is about time this changed.
More Transmission Lines Won’t Solve The Problem
You might think the solution to this problem is adding more transmission lines to supply more power to your household. This will surely work. However, this is not the ultimate solution for this crisis. What is needed is a distribution system that is more efficient and reliable, that is, minimal energy loss during distribution and few electricity interruptions.
What makes the smart grid more advanced than the current grid is the ability to control, analyse and monitor data, which then the smart grid transmits to the distribution system. Which, of course, ensures that there is a minimal energy loss, consumption and consequently low energy costs: a smart energy management.
The Benefits of the Smart Grid are Endless
The current system of distributing power is old and has been in place since the late 1900s. With improvements in technology, there is also need to improve the method of energy conveyance. The smart grid allows for improved management, minimal energy loss during distribution, efficient energy use and ultimately, low energy costs. Here are other main benefits of smart grid that is able to support the growing number of Internet of Things appliances:
With the employment of the smart grid, consumers will be able to determine how low or high the thermostat is set without having to consider peak and off-peak hours and also the cost per kilowatt of the electricity. This will also significantly reduce the energy consumption, it’s overall cost and thus makes it smart energy.
2. Counter for Increasing Demand
The number of electrical appliances has more than doubled in homes and businesses. This puts a lot of pressure on the current grid that is unable to sustain the demands of the population. Therefore, there is need to implement new changes to the old grid to counter the increasing demand.
3. Minimal Blackouts and Surges
Incidences like power shortages and total blackouts are bound to occur, leaving behind losses that could have been easily avoided. There is no stopping of power surges, but they can be easily and efficiently dealt with using the new smart grid.
4. Cost effective
The smart grid offers energy management systems that can be inspected anytime. This ensures total surveillance of your smart meter and thus no unexpected costs. In other words, you can seamlessly keep track of your power usage, month after month or after a fortnight or so. What’s more, word on the street is that there’s a new upcoming smartphone app that will enable homeowners to get real-time feedback on the status of their smart meters via their handheld devices.
5. Instantaneous Troubleshooting
In the event of an aberration, the old system will require a worker from the utility station to come to your residence and inspect your meter, this can cause lengthy power outages. However, the smart grid processes the data instantaneously, and the solution is sought immediately. The efficiency of this system will save you time and money without a doubt.
6. Smart Grids are Cost Effective to Producers
Idle power plants that require frequent maintenance will be of no use since the smart grid enables direct communication from the consumer to the producer. This will eliminate the costs of building and maintaining such idle plants which reflect on your electricity bill. ( In case you’re wondering why you settle a hefty maintenance quote at the end of every month)
7. Ease of Transition to Future Technology
The old system will be unable to cater for the rise in demand when we switch to electric vehicles. So, it’s pretty obvious that there is need to implement the smart grid to meet the demand of millions of electric-car owners.
8. Efficient Management of Different Energy Sources
The efficiency that comes with the smart grid will facilitate easy access to geographically scattered energy resources such as wind, hydro, etc. This system will also allow for proper storage of surplus energy.
The smart grid is sure to affect the Industrial sector
Some of the ways in which this will happen includes:
1. Improved Economy
Funding and support from key players in the private sector and utilities in different initiatives has significantly improved the British economy. This has been reflected on the livelihoods of the British people and other developed nations as well.
2. Positive Impact on Labour and Employment
Labour and employment have been greatly affected by the smart grid program. There are more jobs available, and the employment has a positive impact on the economy of the United Kingdom and most importantly, on the living standards.
3. Low Energy Cost
With full integration of the smart grid coupled with the smart meter, the smart energy management, storage, and distribution, the system will be able to greatly lower energy costs and thereby make it affordable to connect more electrical appliances to the grid.
4. Greener Environment
In case you didn’t know – the smart grid can incorporate different sources of energy such as wind, hydro, natural gas and coal into the grid. This will greatly counter the over-dependence on fossil fuel such as the preference of electric vehicles to gas guzzlers and hence reduce the greenhouse gas emission and ensure healthier living.
What is a Smart meter?
Smart grids go hand in hand with smart meters which are more or less an extension of the upcoming IoT tech craze. It eliminates the manual estimation of bills. With a smart meter, you can accurately monitor your usage and power expenditure to a fault.
Basically, with the help of a smart energy monitor (placed anywhere around your house), you will be able to see how much you are spending. It is accurate enough that you can see how much you spend while taking a hot shower or what it costs you to wash dishes using your dishwasher. Close monitoring allows you to make changes in methods of energy usage.
Just like reading the traffic lights while driving, the smart energy monitor is simple and easy to read. If the light is red, then you are using way too much – if the light is green, then the usage is low. It’s that simple! Just like I mentioned above, the smart meter is easy to read, unlike the old meter.
Other advantages of the smart meter include:
1. Cost effectiveness for better savings
The smart meter shows you how much you are using according to your country’s currency. You will see minute-by-minute how much you are spending. So, in short, you will be more aware of what is “eating into” your electricity budget making it easier for you to do away with ‘power hungry’ items around your house.
2. Effective Budgeting
Since you are well aware of your expenditure, you will be able to estimate how much you are using. There are no unexpected surprises. You will be able to estimate the next bill you pay by evaluating the last bill.
3. Accurate Billing
The smart meter will continuously be sending accurate information about your energy expenditure. In other words, you will get the most accurate bills ever! And get this, no more submitting meter readings.
With all those benefits, you are probably wondering how you can upgrade to a smart meter. Well, it’s simple. Contact your energy provider who will come and replace your old meter with the new smart meter, at no extra costs.
It is worth mentioning that for your smart meter to work, you have to be within the proper range of the communication signals for the meter to send the readings. Other than that, you should upgrade your meter as soon as possible to enjoy the above benefits.
7 Companies Involved with Smart Energy
On that note, some of the upcoming companies that have heralded the era of smart power transmission systems include:
1. BPL Global, Ltd. (BPLG)
BPL is located in Pittsburgh and provides software services and solutions to electrical utilities, to enable a smart IoT grid to manage efficiently power demand, integrate energy resources, optimise cost, enhance service reliability and capital productivity. Through partnering with the local utilities, equipment suppliers, internet service providers and financiers, BPL Global is creating end-to-end smart solutions to deploy the smart IoT grid system all over the world aggressively. Their applications offer the important foundation for getting an intelligent, well-coordinated grid to ensure more efficient energy delivery for a much greener environment.
2. Ecologic Analytics, LLC
Ecologic Analytics (integrated with Landis + Gyr) is the leading supplier of software for meter data management solutions. It is located in Bloomington, MN. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is used for translating meter data for businesses for better decision making.
This is one of the few companies that is AMI-neutral. As a result, it allows Ecologic Analytics to recommend the best software designs to utilities. Ecologic Analytics’ Meter Data Management System (MDMS) software enables ease use of data collected. Utility applications, therefore, do not need to be altered for the data to be collected.
3. Silver Springs Networks
Silver Springs Networks is based in Redwood City in the Silicon Valley. It is responsible for building networks for utilities to use in making business changes required to improve customer service, efficiency, and reliability while lowering the cost of energy. Its open standards allow retailers to come up with new commodities and services while remaining accessible to system-wide implementation.
4. GridPoint, Inc.
GridPoint is located in Arlington, VA. It deals in developing an open software platform for energy systems- especially those that are already distributed. In fact, the software that they specialise on can integrate renewable energy into the grid, as well as manage energy conveyance from the grid to the plug-in charger for electric vehicles.
5. Tendril Networks
Located in Boulder, CO, Tendril Networks is privately owned start-up specialises in easy-to-use technology that bridges the gap between consumers and utilities. It specialises in Smart Meters, communication devices and an SSI module that ensures smart energy consumption and enables utilities to communicate with consumers. It offers an energy management system that allows other companies to build their unique software. The company works hand in hand with various local and national utility companies to provide energy management systems that are aimed at creating smart energy devices such as thermostats.
6. Tropos Networks
Tropos Networks is a start-up located in Sunnyvale, CA that was acquired by the ABB Group. It provides consumers with open-standard IP networks. It also provides smart meters and primary network infrastructure. A wireless network allows the utilities to manage their networks such as monitoring power quality surveillance of sub-stations remotely.
7. SmartSynch, Inc.
Located in Jackson, MS, SmartSynch (acquired by Itron) specialises in public, wireless smart metering technology for industrial energy, commercial and utility markets. It specialises in SmartMeters, communication devices and an SSI module that ensures smart energy consumption and enables utilities to communicate with consumers. It offers an energy management system that allows other companies to build their unique software. The company works hand in hand with utility powerhouses to provide energy management systems that are aimed at creating smart energy devices such as thermostats. SmartSynch also provides Advanced Communication Networks that facilitate efficient data transportation.
As you can see, there is no denying that mankind has barely scratched the surface as far as smart grid technology and associated systems go. There’s so much potential to be realised. The future is bright, and a good chunk of this future is directly tied to smart electricity grids.