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How a modernized grid will help transmission and distribution

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, July 22, 2013

The country's current electrical infrastructure is having difficulty supporting new energy sources, but smart grid technology could help improve the transmission and distribution of energy as new power sources become available.

Conventionally, most of the generated power that supported the U.S. came from local power plants and was distributed across a wide spanning region of energy consumers. However, as projects like community solar and wind farms grow more common in the country's energy spectrum, these single power sources are seeing more supplementary energy sources. The nation's current electric infrastructure has been slow to adapt to these new power sources entering the grid and as a result is ill equipped to handle the distribution of electricity from multiple power sources.

Expanding distributed generation
Some utilities are making a more concerted effort to accommodate these changes. According to Fierce Smart Grid, the Energy Information Administration expects the amount of distributed generation capacity on the nation's power network is expected to grow from the 2009 figure of 1.9 gigawatts (GW) to 6.8 GW in 2035. Part of this expansion is due the inclusion of certain provisions included in the renewable portfolio standards of 16 states

Distributed generation is particularly helpful for the transmission and distribution (T&D) of electricity by utilities who are looking to incorporate additional power sources. By installing smart grid technology like intelligent controls and automation technology, the news source explains, greater control over electricity flow becomes possible. This supplies more energy during times of peak demand and reroute it when certain parts of the utility's infrastructure fail.

Improving T&D
Technology to improve a utility's T&D is growing not only with the incorporation of new energy sources, but also the push to modernize electric infrastructure to ensure more reliable power supplies to customers. According to a new Newton-Evans report cited by Electric Light and Power, utilities are expecting to increase spending on T&D technology.

Over 40 percent plan to increase capital expenditure on energy management systems, SCADA and outage management systems, while 55 percent of utilities plan to increase capital expenditures on transmission infrastructure.

Demand to modernize the electric grid is growing as more electricity is distributed to consumers. According to the report, 71 percent of utilities plan to start new smart grid projects, with 59 percent of them including distribution automation technology.

SUBNET is helping utilities improve their T&D through the use of intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) that can help measure and control the electricity flowing through their infrastructure. By compiling the data the IEDs collect to a single server, utilities can better understand their grid activity and make necessary adjustments based on that information.

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