Introduction to Industrial Control Systems
Industrial Control Systems by Industry
Utilities and the Smart Grid
The term “Smart Grid” is an overarching description of building intelligence into grid operations and the utility network. Intelligence can allow a better understanding of the current conditions and gives users the ability to predict how different events, such as the weather, and how it will affect the grid and grid operations. From here, users can be in a proactive state with the grid instead of a reactive or responsive state.
The smart grid connects everything from generation all the way to the meter. It is in all ways embedding intelligence, being able to use the intelligence to drive a greater understanding, which then drives better decision-making and better outcomes. The smart grid is not just about operational efficiencies, but also health and safety. It spans an entire range of different areas of interest and has different implications in each case.
When speaking about generation, this traditionally means bolt generation. Hundreds of megawatts are now being augmented through solar, wind, and other renewables. The impact of renewables means multi-billion-dollar investments in large-scale generation do not necessarily have to be made.
Solar and wind energies can be aggregated, and thing such as storage can be implemented. Even to the extent of possibly using electric vehicles as a passive storage solution that moves around the grid. Where there is a weakness or lack of power available in certain parts, energy from an electric car that is plugged in and charging can reverse its energy flow and provide energy.
A smart grid can also provide a better understanding of the grid operations and consumption. Grid control can turn off and on air conditioners, hot water heaters and other assets that are controllable by the grid so that instead of generating more energy, energy consumption can be reduced.
There is an interesting balance that can be created within a smart grid and within distribution automation that allows you to continuously match supply and demand. As the variety of supply increases, we need a counter to the amount of demand we can shift or load shed, and so smart grid distribution automation is enabling the intelligence that gives you full visibility and control of the grid.
Different areas of the grid
To move beyond smart grid, one must drill down into the various areas of the grid. In terms of the distribution element there is smart metering, which is interesting and important but not necessarily within the sweet spot that radio communications can address.
There’s also transmission and generation, but again, those are typically served by fiber, and so it doesn’t have a real use case or demand for a radio solution. But the distribution system is the least monitored and the least controlled of the entire grid, and the wide area coverage that a radio network offers is perfect in such situations.
So we’re going to drill down into distribution automation some. It is the perfect spot for a DMR Tier 3-type network to address: it provides data capabilities and wide area coverage. It is, to some extent, a network that’s already required for voice-type use cases. Therefore, it is an ideal solution in which to address distribution automation.