Smarter Than You Think: Optimization from the Ground Up

Smarter Than You Think: Optimization from the Ground Up

December 10, 2012 at 04:12pm

Mention “smart meter,” “smart appliance,” or almost any term with “smart” in it, and you inevitably conjure up images of some futuristic world. It’s a place where you can control your lights, appliances and even automobile remotely from your smartphone or other convenient device – even from half way around the world. The term “smart” also inevitably gives the impression of eco-friendly.

At least, this is what often comes to mind for the average consumer. However, the truth is that the opportunities for really substantial cost savings and reduced CO2 emissions come when “smart” is applied to the power grid. In this context, the power grid means everything from the point of electricity generation through transmission and distribution and down to the level of individual consumers and their smart meters and appliances.

These smart grids offer headline-grabbing features like giving utilities the flexibility to connect intermittent and distributed sources of renewable power such as wind and sun to the grid. Or the idea that the batteries in electric vehicles that are plugged into the grid could serve as storage devices when renewable power generation exceeds grid demand.

Both intermittency and power storage are major issues, but smart grid technologies also do much more. In fact, they deliver a laundry list of mundane-sounding but extremely valuable cost and operational benefits to utilities and other capital-intensive players in the power sector. That’s because smart grids give operators real-time information about what’s happening across the grid. And they can allow those operators to take action remotely from their control rooms.

For utilities across this region, smart grids offer a powerful tool to help them meet some of their most pressing challenges. For example, they can help utilities reduce CO2 emissions; use existing infrastructure more efficiently; better manage, control and protect infrastructure; connect renewable power to the grid, and improve customer service.

Specific tools include grid diagnostics, demand forecasting, transformer management, outage management, backup power management and control, and wireless advanced metering infrastructure.

Many of these issues will be discussed during the Saudi Arabia Smart Grid 2012 conference, scheduled this week (December 8-11) in Jeddah. Dr. Wajdi Ahmad, director of the Technical Marketing & Solutions division of GE Digital Energy, will speak on the importance of smart grid solutions for distribution system automation. He also will discuss the ways in which GE supports the region’s energy sector by promoting operational efficiency and power system reliability through an integrated, end-to-end smart grid framework.

To learn more about how GE is working with utilities in the region to access the benefits the smart grid, click here.

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