Communications for Smarter Energy Systems

Two distinct but related developments are having a transformative effect on power grid infrastructure and the way it is managed. The first is a greater reliance on renewable but volatile energy sources; the second is the inclusion in the distribution domain of non-grid assets, such as microgeneration capabilities, rooftop photovoltaics, battery storage, electric vehicles, combined heat and power (CHP), and other types of distributed energy resources (DER).

Whereas utilities and system operators have complete control over their traditional grid assets, these newer, non-grid assets are in effect controlled by the owners of the premises on which they are installed. This presents a challenge to utilities attempting to balance load effectively and support real and reactive power while enabling dynamic renewable injection into the grid.

Smart devices, such as inverters and gateways, help address this problem. These technologies make active and effective grid management possible, by enabling communication between newer, distributed non-grid assets and the existing, traditional grid assets.

This is an example of the Internet of Things (IoT) in action and, as with all examples of the IoT, the introduction of smart, data-driven devices requires both the equipment and the communication it carries to be protected. Quality of Service (QoS) also comes into play, for example to ensure that control messages sent to solar photovoltaic installations are sent and received with the immediacy needed to ensure effective grid management. A robust, secure, and flexible communication infrastructure is therefore essential.

A new paper published by Intel looks at the connectivity options needed at various points within an increasingly smart power grid and discusses the challenges and potential solutions for three distinct use cases. It also looks at future communication and networking technologies that can deliver significant benefit to utilities, distribution service operators (DSOs), aggregators, and service providers.

Read the paper and let me know what questions you have about smarter energy systems.