Conservation voltage reduction could be an easy win for smart grids

Less is more when it comes to beef on the bun (at least according to your doctor), and the same now appears to be true for AC voltage. Research by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in Palo Alto, Calif., is confirming that many electrical devices work equally well and use less energy at lower voltages, and that offers utilities a big conservation opportunity. By trimming the voltage they deliver, distribution utilities in the United States could slim the nation's power appetite by 3 percent—the equivalent of unplugging every refrigerator in the country—according to an August 2010 analysis from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) (PDF).

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Most of us take for granted that the lights will work when we flip them on, without worrying too much about the staggeringly complex things needed to make that happen. Thank the engineers who designed and built the power grids for that—but don't thank them too much. Their main goal was reliability; keeping the cost of electricity down was less of a concern. That's in part why so many people in the United States complain about high electricity prices. Some armchair economists (and a quite a few real ones) have long argued that the solution is deregulation. After all, many other U.S. industries have been deregulated—take, for instance, oil, natural gas, or trucking—and greater competition in those sectors swiftly brought prices down. Why not electricity? Read More

The U.S. electrical grid has been plagued by ever more and ever worse blackouts over the past 15 years. In an average year, outages total 92 minutes per year in the Midwest and 214 minutes in the Northeast. Japan, by contrast, averages only 4 minutes of interrupted service each year. Read More

Networked grid offers a host of benefits, but paints a big target on infrastructure

A smarter energy grid holds both promise and peril. Advantages range from more sophisticated energy management to significant savings. But the threats also are numerous, as a networked electrical grid almost certainly would entice all sorts of miscreants. Read More


Bridging Japan's east-west frequency divide to stoke power flows will require real engineering hustle

6 April 2011—The earthquake and tsunami that destabilized Japan’s Fukushima Dai-1 nuclear power plant last month also blew a large hole in the country’s power supply. Eleven nuclear reactors in eastern Japan shut down, including three that were running at Fukushima Dai-1 and four at the nearby Fukushima Dai-2 plant. In all, more than 27 gigawatts of power generation were out of commission, forcing Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)—operator of the Fukushima reactors and power supplier to greater Tokyo—to ration power by instituting rolling blackouts. Read More

Medium-term prospects for the smart grid will be among the key technology topics addressed next month at the IEEE’s Technology Time Machine conference in Hong Kong. Read More

Publication: IntelligentUtility
Issue: August 9, 2011

Teed up: NERC CIP, the issue of scale and data visualization

Yesterday we briefly touched upon issues of importance to a group of leading CIOs. Having been privy also to a discussion of issues critical across the spectrum of IT, operations and customer service, I can cite a few additional issues of much broader concern to utilities.

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The Smart Grid of the future has been described in many ways. The most widely accepted vision of the future grid is that of an electrical grid that is highly automated, managed, controlled and optimized by Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). There is one catch in this description; the grid of the future will not be the existing grid that is ICT enabled.  There will be fundamental differences to its design which will change the way we live our lives and interact socially and culturally.

These Social and Cultural considerations include topics like Privacy and Equity to name just a few. Sadly enough Technology designs and especially ICT designs typically fail to incorporate social and cultural view and viewpoints as critical requirements. This is not a new phenomenon. The technological landscape is cluttered with the remains of huge IT projects which either failed outright, or cost orders of magnitudes higher than originally estimated due directly to the inability of organizations to take into account the impact to the most important stakeholders, the people impacted by the design not just the perceived users.

We are now designing a Smart Grid which will take decades to build and implement and cost trillions of dollars. This means now, more so than any other time in our history, we have the time to get things right and design a grid that will propel our cultural and society into the future. Can we even imagine designing an electrical grid for the future that will be used by 300 million or more Americans and may even be a model for the world without looking at these impacts?

How do we do this? We need to start asking social and cultural impact questions like: Do we really want our personal data regarding our electrical usage available to everyone? How can we make energy become an affordable commodity to everyone versus and expensive service? How will my life change when I as a consumer may also be a producer of electrical energy and can now pick how I consume or market energy to others? How will the social responsibility mechanisms of policy and regulation continue to protect the weak and poor? These kinds of questions then can be incorporated as requirements and be used to extend our existing business and technical architectures from which we can map and build thoughtful technology designs that will be robust and flexible.

Publication: Connected Planet

Date: August 16, 2011

The headline of a recent IEEE press release references “surprising smart grid early adopters.” But rural readers won’t be surprised to learn that those early adopters are small electric power cooperatives in sparsely populated rural areas. Read More

Publication: GM-Volt Date:

August 16, 2011

A new "combo connector" to charge battery propelled automobiles is being rapidly developed based on a collaboration between the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE.) Read More

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