By DE Editors
Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:
Electricity is our infrastructure’s infrastructure, and we demand more electricity to power our lives every day. And we’re not alone.
The International Energy Agency says that, in 2009, China became the world’s largest consumer of energy, wresting away from the US the title we held for 100 years. The annual BP Statistical Review of World Energy says it was 2010, a year, it says, in which China’s total energy consumption grew by 11.2%. We still hold the title as the number one energy consumer on a per capita basis, according to reports. China may have well more than a billion people over us, but we know how to run up the tab.
That bill, however, is a problem. We’ve built our lives on electricity, and we guzzle energy — oil, gas, etc. — to run our electric generating plants. The market forces generated by the similar energy desires of a billion-plus people in China alone, forget the rest of the world, drive up the costs of our energy. That’s why energy-sipping technologies such as CFLs, electric cars, alternate power generators, etc. are so much in the news.
But our vise has two claws. Our electricity delivery system grew organically over the years into a massive, complex integrated grid that cannot handle the load every so often, especially on brutal summer and winter days. And now we’re talking about plugging electric cars into our wall sockets, stressing the grid further. To deal with our growing demand, the power grid requires modernization, and Smart Grids are a key component of that modernization.
What exactly are Smart Grids? Think Whack-a-Mole for the power grid. The promise of Smart Grids is that they will offer technology for “automatically predicting and responding to shifting ]power] loads, rerouting power around obstructions, introducing distributed storage and renewable generation, and even identifying and locating faults to dispatch repair crews with the appropriate equipment,” writes Brian MacCleery and Matt Spexarth from National Instruments in today’s Check It Out white paper, “Powering the Smart Grid.”
What technologies provide the infrastructure for Smart Grids? Embedded instrumentation and control systems, sensors, and communications protocols among others. MacCleery and Spexarth have produced a quick paper summarizing our problem and the case for Smart Grids. They highlight some technologies that are being deployed right now to begin making the idea of Smart Grids real.
This white paper left me hungry for more. But then again that is precisely the reason to read it. We’re hungrier every day for more electricity, and Smart Grids are one way we can ensure our demands are fed. Hit the link to get this intriguing — and, BTW, optimistic — read.
Thanks, pal. — Lockwood
Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering