How a smart grid can minimize blackouts

ComEd of Chicago explains.

If Smart Grid technology had been in place, here’s how it would have minimized the impact of the storm: ComEd would have known customers were out of power without them having to call us. Technology would have pinpointed outages allowing us to dispatch crews more quickly to restore service. Digital automation would have rerouted power or corrected a problem before an outage occurs meaning fewer customers would have seen outages, and thousands of customers may have never experienced an outage.

With our current grid, the sad truth is utilities often don’t know there is a blackout until customers call.

The challenges of big data on the smart grid

OSHA

The average big electric utility is a sprawling network that is buzzing with energy but contains surprisingly little data about that energy. Managers at utilities can’t “see” very deep into the thousands of substations and relay units that make up the electrical grid. Some utilities still learn about a neighborhood electrical outage not because it shows up on any of their sophisticated monitoring equipment, but because customers call them on the phone and complain that the power’s out.

A smart grid means real-time monitoring everywhere. That in turn means fire hoses of new data that utilities are nowhere near ready to handle now. For one thing, many utilities have control systems that don’t communicate to each other internally. That has to change. Furthering complicating matters, all this has to be done piecemeal because you can’t just shutdown the grid for a week and upgrade the software.

Polizeros podcast. Republican presidential race. Climate change

Listen to the show on BlogTalkRadio or on iTunes. With Steve Hynd of Newshoggers, Josh Mull (@joshmull) and myself.


Topics were:

Republican presidential race

The Republican field is jumbled with no obvious choice. The candidates will all endorse the Ryan Plan in the primary and whoever gets the nomination will then run away from it. Retirees detest the Ryan Plan for obvious reasons and they tend to always vote. This is something the Republicans have apparently not considered.

Huntsman could be a dark horse candidate if the convention is deadlocked. He was a popular moderate Republican governor of Utah, a conservative state.

Palin will run and continue her focus on resentment of elites. But does she have appeal beyond the Beltway pundits and the Tea Party, which is waning in influence?

The big issues will be the economy, Medicare, and foreign intervention.

A centrist Republican could do well in debates against Obama while a fringe candidate would probably get clobbered.

Neither party is talking about the bailout of the big banks by the Fed or the continuing corruption on Wall Street. These topics are off-limits.

Climate change

Weather patterns are shifting, getting more extreme. Arctic ice is melting. Clearly, something is happening and it doesn’t bode well for us. But ending climate change means international agreements that are legally binding. No big country wants to do this, especially considering the price. So, events may be what forces the issue. Gas goes to $10 a gallon or a major city floods. We need to wean ourselves from using oil for transportation and reserve it for plastics. Further, we need a smart grid, one which can handle multiple sources of widely distributed and flucuating power going in all directions and which can store energy for future use.

Download the mp3.