Smart Grid and the IoT



It seems that all too quickly, the half of 2019 is now behind us. So far, it’s been a very mixed year. On the one hand, innovation is rapidly incoming, especially with the penetration of wide bandgap materials onto the market. If you were at PCIM like me, you’d have seen that the exhibition was completely dominated by GaN and SiC news. I’m really looking forward to this continuing through the second half of the year with even more products made with advanced materials and the efficiency of all our products continuing to grow. On the other hand, the overall condition of the market is starting to look a bit more precarious. I’ll go into a little more detail on that in my Final Thought column in the back of this month’s magazine.

This month, we take a look at two relatively newer areas of power technology - the Smart Grid and IoT. Both subjects are really topical and usually come at the opposite sides of the power spectrum. Smart grids are important at the large-scale energy generation side of the industry. They allow us to look at more efficient ways of using generated energy and try to get away from a centralised grid onto a more distributed system. Distributed grids are really important for renewable industries that don’t have a guaranteed constant source of energy. They allow energy providers to switch to imported energy from other areas that have power when local sources are quiet and vice versa. They also are able to integrate and distribute the power from many smaller energy sources more easily.

Distributed grids will be vital in efficiently powering the data centres that make up one part of the IoT. Data centres are growing at such a rate that they now take up a significant amount of our power - up to 3% of all electricity generated globally, and this figure is predicted to double every four years. At the other side of the IoT, things are a much smaller scale. Data centres for IoT operations process and store data from billions of small remote sensors, many of which are battery powered or even generate their own energy. These sensor clusters will be expected to operate for up to a decade without maintenance or battery changes, which is quite a task when in addition to sensors the clusters are expected to have a microcontroller for edge computation, a power circuit and some form of connectivity to send data. 

Our first special report this month is written by Murata and it looks at developing new battery cells specifically targeted at sensor clusters. That article is followed by one from Mouser that describes how to make these remote clusters secure from interference. There will also be a wide variety of articles on general power topics. I hope you enjoy.

Best Regards,

Ally Winning

European Editor, PSD