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9 Technologies That Enable Smart Electric Grids

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Smart electric grids intelligently optimize the flow of electricity and can help expand the contribution of renewable sources like wind and sunlight.

The following nine technologies play key roles in the expansion and development of smart grids:

#1) Batteries and other energy storage devices capture excess energy produced by wind or sunlight and retain it for later use. In addition to time-shifting energy from intermittent renewables, batteries and other storage devices help ensure that mission-critical systems continue to function even during an outage.

#2) Semiconductor switching enables remote and automated control of electrical power flow.

#3) Synchrophasors allow precise and rapid monitoring of electrical system function. This technology helps enable dynamic pricing of electricity.

#4) Smart meters sense and measure electric use by individual customers; they are a core element of AMI.

#5) Wireless and radio communications enable various parts of the grid to speak without needing wired communication transmission lines; communications are a core element of AMI.

#6) Meter data management systems include software and databases that can store and analyze electricity usage data coming in from smart meters; meter data management systems are a core element of AMI.

#7) Automated demand response (also known as automated or intelligent load shedding) tracks time-sensitive system data and automatically cuts power when necessary to stabilize the system and help prevent blackouts. Typically, automated demand response cuts power to select customers or sections of a system intentionally, to help maintain or optimize the larger system.

#8) Interoperability standards reflect efforts by industry experts to assure that all the equipment within a smart grid speaks the same language. This involves standardizing the way system data is stored and transmitted. One example of such a standard being researched is the Open Automated Demand Response Communications Specifications (OpenADR) data model, designed to communicate dynamic pricing to electricity customers.

#9) The Internet and cloud computing provide customers with online access to their smart meter readings. Web-based applications can also be used to remotely schedule and control appliance within homes or businesses linked to the smart grid.

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