The power grid powers up the nation, providing energy to homes and businesses in order to keep everything running smoothly. But with climate change, decarbonization, the movement toward renewable energy, and the growing threat of cyberattacks, the way the grid works is changing. Adding to the complexity, the infrastructure making up the power grid is aging and in need of repair. Fortunately, technology can make it easier to meet demand and increase efficiency.
The old way was to transfer electricity from a central location to local centers. Electricity is first generated using fossil fuels and then sent in high voltages to substations through long-distance power lines. The substations convert the electricity to lower voltages before it reaches homes and businesses via distribution lines.
Now energy comes from all over. Though fossil fuels remain the primary source of energy powering homes and commercial buildings, nuclear power is also a source, and energy sources come from wind farms, solar panels, hydroelectric plants, and other renewables as well. This creates a balancing act for the power grid and makes the use of technology essential.
1- Predict Possible System Failure
Artificial intelligence and machine learning make it possible to create a digital twin. Because solar power and wind energy outputs are harder to predict than electricity generated from fossil fuels, digital twins allow engineers to test out different scenarios to better prepare for alterations in energy output. Furthermore, the sensors that make the digital twin possible provide real-time data about how energy is being used.
2- Better Anticipate Supply and Demand
Technology allows for a smart grid system. This means that meters would be placed on individual houses and commercial buildings that work with sensors on transmission lines to monitor both supply with consumer demand and compare that with the amount of electricity being used. These sensors have the ability to cut off supply temporarily to avoid a blackout or know if electricity needs to be shifted during off-peak hours. A smart grid system also allows consumers to better understand how they use energy and make adjustments where necessary.
3- Quickly Isolate and Respond to Problems
Understanding how energy is being used makes it easier for utility companies to anticipate power outages. Remote sensors allow for monitoring that can alert utility companies about problems such as a power line being down or a pole that has been damaged. This allows for a quicker response time as well as fewer and shorter power outages. With technology, it is easier to isolate the problem. It is also easier to identify if some part of the grid needs to be built or repaired, even when there is not a power outage. Technology increases the overall efficiency of the grid.
By using technology to maintain the power grid, residents in the community will be able to experience fewer power outages. Since many businesses rely on the power grid, this will also help the local economy. Technology can and should be used in a number of different ways to help maintain a power grid.