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In order for smart grid to succeed, smart machines will be needed as well

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, October 13, 2011

As Missouri makes plans to develop a smart grid, one expert says the state must also work to create "thinking machines" that can learn and adapt to situations at the same rate as the smart grid infrastructure, according to the Missouri University of Science and Technology (MUST).

The smart grid can best be described as a digital upgrade of existing electrical distribution, Ganesh Kumar Venayagamoorthy of MUST says. The large amounts of data that will be generated by the smart grid will need to be processed in order for the germane information to be sent to the appropriate distribution control centers. This process must occur within a time frame that allows for decisions to be made and adaptations to occur in regards to the situation.

This entire process, Venayagamoorthy says, will depend on new computerized systems, or computational systems thinking machines (CSTMS).

These CSTMs will operate on three basic abilities, which include sense-making, decision-making and adaptation. In order for substation managers to fully utilize these capabilities, they must continuously improve their knowledge of how the smart grid will work. However, traditional methods offer limited abilities for modeling, controlling or optimizing power distribution systems.

But some solutions providers are adapting well to the challenges seen in smart grid implementation.

SUBNET Solutions Inc. has developed intelligent software that enables utilities to use substation automation and remote access to improve operations. The system was designed with ultimate interoperability in mind, and adheres strictly to NERC CIP standards, which is crucial for security in the new grid.

The emerging technologies of computational intelligence and adaptive critical designs are also showing promise for bringing CSTMs to life, aiding in smart grid deployment.

Venayagamoorthy's research comes at a time when nations around the world are advancing their smart grid infrastructure.

Northeast Group LLC, a research and consulting firm based in Washington, DC., recently announced its Mexico Smart Grid Market Forecast, which expects the nation's total smart grid market to reach $8.3 billion by 2020.

The forecast included several smart grid markets, including distribution automation.

"Mexico is well positioned to develop into a leading smart grid market, both in the Latin America region and globally. Like other Latin American and emerging market nations, the country faces high rates of electricity theft and power outages, both of which can be reduced through smart grid technologies," Northeast Group stated.  

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