Smart energy grids reduce electricity wastage by a two-way communication with consumers. Also, they are friendlier towards cleaner energy resources.
In Oct. 2009, President Barack Obama announced a huge grant of 3.4 billion dollars for investment in building smart energy grids for United States. The fundamental objectives were to trim electricity bills, to reduce blackouts and to carry power generated by alternative energy resources such as wind or solar energy. Smart energy grids monitor the electricity consumption via a computerized feedback system. In this way, they are able to minimize the losses that occur in conventional energy grids.
Conventional Energy Grids
An energy grid also called power grid comprises a large distribution network that carries electricity from producers to consumers. Conventional energy grids have been in use for many years. Electricity is generated at a power plant; hydroelectric type or a coal-fired plant, and distributed via above ground or, in some countries, underground distribution lines.
The final consumers draw electricity off the grid and pay the amount for the power units they take. Although, the conventional grid system has been convenient for customers, it accompanies wastage of energy.
Drawbacks of Conventional Energy Grids
A specific feature of conventional energy grids is that they distribute energy in a one-way fashion. Even though, customers are charged for the electricity they take, a certain amount of energy is wasted away when people do not turn off or unplug the electric appliances when not in use.
Additionally, coal-fired power plants present at the other end of conventional grids are responsible for generating alarming amounts of obnoxious emissions to the atmosphere. Even if they are equipped with emission- reduction devices such as scrubbers, the damage to the environment is not fully eliminated. Hydroelectric power plants are also blamed for affecting riverside ecosystems by releasing hot process water into the environment.
Benefits of Smart Energy Grids
Smart energy grids improve on conventional distribution of energy in two primary ways:
- Smart energy grids can be designed to allow a two-way type of electricity flow. In this manner, these grids can eliminate or at least minimize the wastage of electricity and the consumers have to pay for what they use rather than what they take.
- Smart energy grids promise to facilitate alternative energy resources that do not cause environmental pollution associated with dams and coal burning. Moreover, large power plants and thousands of miles of power lines can be eliminated by introducing smart energy grids.
How Smart Energy Grids Work
A smart energy grid consists of two main components: a power generation unit and a computerized system for monitoring electricity consumption. The computerized monitoring system keeps track of locations and times of the highest usage of electricity and can redirect a certain amount of electricity from low- consumption areas to high- consumption areas. In this way, energy from locations where it is in access returns back to the system and wastage is minimized.
A further enhancement to smart energy distribution systems is smart home appliances. These home appliances can sense their own peak usage times and can communicate with smart energy grids to indicate a lesser or greater need for electricity. This two-way feedback system between smart energy distribution system and smart consumer ensures electricity regulation in a more responsible way and ensures minimum energy wastage.
Future of Smart Energy Grids
Due to the promising benefits of smart energy grids in terms of energy savings and environmental protection, many countries such as United sates has already incorporated it in its energy program. Similarly, countries like China, Australia and many European countries are investing into this promising technology.