What Makes a Smart Grid Smart?

AES installs Grid Storage

AES installs Grid Storage

By Tom Bartley. The answer is Intelligent Energy Transfer!  It is smart to not waste energy and not waste money in power generation capacity, but it takes some intelligent technology and control to make it happen.  Electricity energy storage is one of those key technologies to minimize transmission losses and enhance grid stability while adding more renewable wind and solar power.
The Storage Week conference July 13-16, 2009 at the San Diego Marriott La Jolla will address the technologies, business models, and supporting policies for a modern smart power grid. The Event Summary lists the key featured speaker as R. James Woolsey, the former CIA director who has lectured widely about how our payments for foreign oil help fund our terrorist enemies.
This conference focuses on the sometime overlooked fact that power generation always matches power demand at any time on any power distribution network.  Renewable wind and solar power sources do not follow the demand, but rather force the grid to follow the source for maximum renewable energy and compensate elsewhere.  Major generation assets do not respond quickly and require other devices for intermediate and short term smoothing.  One common form of storage currently used is to have on line water pumps and generators that use gravity for energy storage by moving water in and out of elevated storage reservoirs.
Modern forms of energy storage offer other candidate devices. For example, AES has built a 1 MWh battery pack with A123 Lithium ion batteries to test the viability of smoothing power spikes.
The media coverage of the somewhat rare “blackout” has instilled a public phobia of reaching grid capacity and losing power.  What is missing in the media coverage is the reduction in transmission efficiency and wasted power that occurs at the upper end of the grid capacity without exceeding the capacity.  The higher the power level of a given distribution grid and the greater the distance from the source to the load, the more that energy is wasted in parasitic heating losses.
Distributed grid energy storage would go a long way toward minimizing energy losses and reducing the need for excess capacity.

Tom Bartley

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About Author: Tom Bartley

Tom Bartley is an expert about vehicles, drive systems, and energy storage. Tom Bartley has a BSEE and MSEE from Stanford University. He is a life member of the IEEE and a member of SAE. He is a director on the board of the San Diego Clean Fuel Coalition and is working with Transpower of the development of heavy-duty electric drive systems.