renewable energy

Clean Energy Grid of the Future for Integrating Intermittent Renewable Energy Resources

With the growing popularity of renewable energy, the world is moving towards an era of energy efficiency like never before. There is one problem, though. It cannot be produced at the same amount every time. This is also known as intermittency, which causes hindrance in energy production. Due to the fluctuating nature, energy like solar and wind are not dispatchable. Having a grid-connected facility can make this possible. The system can use solar or wind energy to provide power when there is ample wind and sunlight. The grids will store the excess electricity for later use when it is not available.

What is Intermittent Electricity?

Due to fluctuating weather conditions, sources like solar power, wind power, and tidal energy are not continuously available. The electricity derived from these sources is known as intermittent electricity because of the short and limited production window.

Although, you can predict solar and tidal energy availability by calculating factors like weather patterns, length of the days, and tidal cycles. Still, due to the short period and intermittent nature, the nature of the electricity is non-dispatchable.

The only way to constrain intermittency is by using sufficient electricity storage. The rising need for clean energy provides ample scope for research in this area. The electricity can be stored for use later when energy production is low with proper storage.

Preparing for a future system where intermittent renewable resources dominate society offers limitless possibilities. The work has already been started, with companies like Tesla motors producing energy storage devices on a large scale. Optimizing this will also help avoid the peak-time cost of electricity for such sources.

Optimization of Smart Grids

Basically, a smart grid is an electricity network permitting a two-way flow. With the current smart grid market estimated to grow immensely by 2027, the implementation has already started by the leading companies, like IBM and Siemens.

An electric grid such as this is also self-healing and plays an active role in the entire intermittent energy sector. It is simply a more advanced version with similar characteristics to a power grid.  Smart grid technology optimizes two-way communication along with computer processing. The big data project by IBM collaborated with the largest electric delivery company in Texas. The aim is to supply clean energy to more than three million households in the state. Managing this high amount of data will be easy with the Informix database software and IBM POWER7 servers.

Components of a Smart Grid

Similar to traditional grids, smart grids also have several components, but the parts have a more efficient design. For instance, smart grids come with advanced sensors or Phasor Measurement Units (PMUs). This lets the operators calculate grid stability more effectively.

This way, it is possible to decide the optimum hour for power consumption based on a previous calculation of user preference. Besides that, the smart substations can also control all operational data, both critical and non-critical.

This includes data regarding battery, breaker, power factor performance, and transformer status.

Smart grids also consist of advanced digital meters, also known as smart meters, that provide ample info and report outages.

Another critical component of a smart grid is the smart generation system. This helps study the unique behavioral pattern of power generation resources for better predictability of the intermittency.

The multiple points of the grid provide feedback to help decipher the power and frequency factors. Its importance is immense when attempting to make low-carbon electrical energy available and affordable universally.

Smart Meter Implementation

Smart meter technology involves advanced metering systems that offer relief from dated metering systems. With smart meter technology, you can expect improvement in energy efficiency.

While the smart meter sends data from a home or business to the utility for better resource management, it also delivers digital data back to the user. Therefore, you can monitor all data in real-time.

What’s more, all of these happen via secured Wi-Fi connectivity. By providing a more transparent picture of energy consumption, they can also reduce the off-peak hour prices. That means the elimination of anticipated bills for better budgeting.

Companies like Schneider Electric or SICK deliver energy-efficient solutions to various industries. Their recent product Maxim is a software-configurable digital product for better power line communication (PLC). The company aims at bridging the gap between the supply and demand of sustainability.

Siemens, the largest industrial manufacturer in Europe, also follows suit with their advanced energy intelligence. That can make automated distribution a reality. Also, it will help in better grid control via Spectrum Power. Tools like Grid Diagnostics Suite and EnergyIP MDM (Meter Data Management) ensure wide-area monitoring with better control.

The Challenges in Smart Grid Application

To better integrate the smart grid of the future, you need to address various features, like security, demand response, and communication. Also, you cannot ignore the issue with integrating the distributed energy sources. It is only possible to revolutionize the smart grid of the future once you overcome these challenges.

Demand Response

Better demand-side management lets the grid operators efficiently manage the electrical loads on the user-side. For example, the incentive for smart grid consumers is a popular component of this.

Reducing the peak-to-average load on the grid and delivering incentives in the form of coupons, tariffs, and reduced costs are all excellent options. In this, the storage units act as a critical element.

Microgrid Integration

As the demand for reliable and sustainable renewable energy increases, the importance of distributed generation (DG) grows. This is important not only for incorporating new sources but also for reducing transmission loss.

As a building block of the future smart grids, microgrids are well recognized even by the U.S. Department of Energy. In islanded mode, a microgrid can also allow self-healing during outages.

Take a cue from California communities adapting clean energy integrations to deal with natural adversities, like wildfire. Even EVs can become good microgrid assets, as DER provider Peak Power is trying. Their Ontario project will establish the market for potential microgrid services.

Communications

The exchange of information in real-time is crucial in developing the future grid. By integrating communication within the smart grid components, you can cost-effectively maximize energy use. The challenge is integrating it into the existing infrastructure.

SparkMeter aims at making electric grids more functional and flexible for solving the problem. They believe that it is time to upgrade the systems for better cost-effective and more reliable remedies.

Security

In times of digitization, cybersecurity challenges are also important. Due to diverse components coming together in a smart grid of the future, you need to adopt advanced security measures. Inadequate security or absence of security will compromise the entire stability of the system and open the scope for fraud.

Contractual Issue

Users need to agree to an interconnection agreement with the providers to connect the renewable energy sources to a future grid. The agreement includes carrying liability insurance, pay fees, and other charges, like inspection fees, metering charges, etc.

The liability insurance protects the provider in case of any accident from the user end. The problem is that some providers will seek compensation if any damage occurs due to your system.

Metering and Rate Arrangements

As per the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 (PURPA), providers need to purchase excess power from grid-connected systems. The rate should be equivalent to what it costs them to produce energy in the first place.

In such scenarios, providers can pay users via net purchase and sale or net metering. In the former method, two uni-directional meters are required for two-way communication. However, consumers benefit the most from the net metering method.

The Future Vision

Smart grid technology is booming, with the federal government providing incentives. There is also an expected increase in smart meter installations. With the cumulative market capitalization increasing exponentially in the coming years, this could be the beginning of a new era.

Smart grids of the future can also solve the problem with charging stations for the electric vehicle. They are not only valuable for filling the gap of demand and supply of intermittent renewable sources, though.

With sufficient smart power grids, it is possible to prevent power surges and the frequency of blackouts. Once fully installed, this technology will also reduce energy costs substantially and facilitate real-time data control and large-scale charging.

Share this post

LinkedIn

Read also