Alternative Energy and the Smart Grid

Kevin Parmenter, Field Applications Engineering – North America, Advanced Energy



Smart Grid Technology is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 6% during the period 2018-2022, according to a new market research study by Technavio.   

The desired state of energy generation has always been getting information on the loads and having storage and alternate power sources available.  Energy generation has been transmitting power generated by something environmentally unfriendly, not renewable and you know very little or anything at all about your loads and everything you generate is either lost or consumed instantly.

Now, with new technologies we can use unconventional renewable sources – wind, solar what have you and process the power, so it can be transmitted by the grid.  Moreover, we can now know more about what comprises the loads and make intelligent decisions in real time.  With electric vehicles, UPS systems and battery banks we have an opportunity to store the power for peak load periods.  As is typically the case for one technology to be implemented others must be rolled out.  For smart grid technologies to be deployed IIoT, global 5G, software security and other technologies must be developed and deployed.  So how might this be implemented?  

Imagine this demand-response scenario: Utility companies have large commercial and industrial customers that have thousands of Uninterruptible Power Supply units across the world.  A secure Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) communication infrastructure gives the utility behind-the-meter access to the customer's energy assets. Using this real-time interaction between the customer and the utility they together create a tariff that rewards load shifting the point of generation can talk to the load and use the customers UPS batteries as a storage source temporarily. This type of capability, to shape loads on a near real-time basis, is one case of connecting customers’ distributed energy resources. If the customers premises have storage and generation capability the decision can be made to throttle back consumption from the grid and switch to in premises sources of storage or generation on site – wind or solar for example.

Giving this capability to utilities for them to be able to connect any customer asset that stores, generates, consumes or measures energy to offer energy services is enabled via advancements and lowering cost of communications capabilities.   

How real is this technology for the common person?  Sense ( offers Wi-Fi and a phone app to monitor your energy usage with simple to install hardware.  Think Ring or Nest for your utility box. 

So, consider that the barriers to implementation are falling with the multitude of communications, power electronics and alternative energy advancements which are occurring faster than ever before.  If the cost is now low enough for a consumer to implement themselves watch widespread implementation from your home to the generator.  Of course, security and “who owns my data” concerns are there but they will be overcome.  Consider that power electronics must be used from the point of generation to the point of load and all along the path – this will be very good for our industry and provide huge benefits to consumers and the utilities by increasing efficiency, effectiveness and reliability.