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The Smart Grid: Current Electric Grid

1053 words - 4 pages

The American Society of Civil Engineers suggests that the United States will need to invest $1.5 trillion into the current electric grid by 2030. This same group also gave the US a “D” rating for the current grids infrastructure. The US received this rating because the current grid is outdated and inefficient compared to what is available. The US desperately needs to upgrade the grid to become compatible with the new technologies and maximize efficient transportation of electricity. Many deem this upgrade critical; the question however, has been, when? Many have supported this upgrade because it enables the addition of more technological advances and the mass incorporation of renewable energy resources into the grid. Others oppose the smart grid upgrade because of its estimated cost. It will not be a cheap project and will be a major strain on an already struggling economy. They all agree though, that this technology will need to be implemented at some point in time.
The electricity grid is the term for the network of power lines, transformers, and any other tool required for the transportation of electricity to the consumer’s house. The current grid relies upon the workers to collect the data needed and report back to the engineers and overseers who then instruct how to maintain the grid. Now, in the computer age, the smart grid has been made possible. The smart grid is similar in concept to a smartphone. Smartphones are run by powerful computers that provide the maximum efficiency possible to give the phone more features and run faster. This is what the smart grid can do; it maximizes grid efficiency and makes it compatible with newer technologies. The smart grid incorporates two-way communication technology and computer processing that has been present in other industries for decades. It uses sensors and digital communication to gather data and transmit it to a utilities operations center much faster than actual workers can. Power meters, voltage sensors, fault detectors, and etc. are examples of the data that is collected.
Case Study
Hawaii is a prime example of why the electric grid needs to be updated. The HECO (Hawaiian Electric Company) “told customers that they could no longer guarantee that certain residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could be interconnected with the utility grid.” Household PV systems are clean ways of producing the electricity a household needs. A major problem though is that PV systems produce large quantities of electricity sporadically throughout the day. Similar to waves. During noon, when the sun is strongest, the PV systems will produce large quantities of electricity, more than a house needs. This extra electricity is pumped back into the grid and the electric company rolls back that house’s meter. Later, during the night when the panels are not producing electricity, the meter rolls forward and usually equals out around zero. This process is called net metering...

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