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Smart grid technologies lead to breakthrough in renewables integration

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, January 11, 2013

Smart grid proponents have long touted the system's ability to better integrate renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which offer intermittent electricity, into the grid.

While several projects have demonstrated the feasibility of this, a new technology is expected to help electricity from renewable sources travel through the grid like never before, Electric Light and Power reports.

According to the media outlet, the breakthrough, jointly developed by groups in Hong Kong, can greatly stabilize the voltage within power systems that are connected to renewable power sources. Essentially, when voltage jumps in the power grid, the new system will automatically maintain equal voltage throughout the grid by applying compression and extension principles of springs, which offset fluctuations in power flow.

These automatic springs work the same as mechanical springs, which have been used for centuries, but are just now making their way into the electric grid.

"It is amazing how a 300-year-old law has laid down the foundation for smart power grids in the 21st century," said Ron Hui Shu-yuen, chair of power electronics at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Hong Kong.

According to the media outlet, some European countries have set lofty goals for renewable energy power use, however, these goals have been thought by many to be unattainable because of the restrictions put in place because of the intermittent nature of the power sources.

Electric Springs could help these countries solve the problem of intermittency, and would be installed in appliances within a household. This would ultimately lower the risks for serious damage in the event of a power surge.

"We believe it is possible that this invention will impact the whole world," said Hui, who leads the joint research team of the University of Hong Kong and Imperial College London.

The technology is crucial, considering the proportion of renewable energy sources to current grids around the world is expected to rise as high as 40 percent in the not-too-distant future.

This smart grid technology may be most helpful in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo recently called for greater use of both smart grid functions and renewable electricity, according to Renew Grid.

SUBNET has worked with some of the largest utilities in North America to help integrate more renewable power into the grid, and manage voltage fluctuations inherent in these power sources.

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