Humans are getting more used to the idea that everything is connected. It isn’t metaphorical anymore — every family, office building, and city relies on tangible infrastructure to keep lights on and workplaces at peak efficiency.
Most are familiar with the power grid — the series of power lines, generators, and electrical components that energizes the world. How does the smart grid propel humanity forward, and how does it demonstrate there’s still work to improve smart grid efficiency?
What Is a Smart Grid and How Does It Benefit Us?
The smart grid prepares humanity for the future with advanced versions of old technologies, complete with automation capabilities, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, remote operations and more. Many cities are upgrading to smart grids because of the endless benefits and possibilities they offer infrastructure resilience. Experts project the smart grid sector will be worth $156.21 billion by 2028.
Most infrastructure needs to be updated because it’s on the brink of breaking, rusting or having other issues. Old power lines and electronics use excessive energy and require nearly obsessive maintenance to stay operational, especially in the face of rising environmental burdens from climate change.
Additionally, the grid requires on-site attention, which is time-consuming, expensive, and potentially dangerous for operators working on the wiring and tech.
Smart grids eliminate all these concerns and add more benefits on top of it, including the following:
- Expedited diagnosis of outage sources
- Democratized power access, permitting power users also to become distributors
- Improved monitoring through smart sensors to analyze energy consumption and carbon footprint
- Higher resistance to physical damage like theft or natural influences
- Smart power distribution, allocating resources automatically during peak times to where it’s needed most
However, humanity isn’t quite there yet. Smart grid efficiency improvements are happening, and here’s how.
1. Install More IoT Technology
IoT sensors could reveal analytics that constantly inform grid designers’ directions. It’s also the center of automation. The sensors read data at all times, making it publicly available, and IoT devices adapt to incoming information. Accessible data will reveal to manufacturers, operators and consumers how much they use.
Smart grid efficiency improves if it automatically knows when to exert power and when to pull back. It’s one of the reasons the conventional grid causes so much financial, energetic and physical waste — it doesn’t know when to slow down or respond to unexpected stimuli.
IoT will also tell oversight teams when there are failures or improvement opportunities. If a section of the smart grid has a notable percentage increase in energy consumption, IoT will alarm the right parties for immediate action with precise diagnostic and location information.
2. Implement Solid-State Transformers (SSTs)
Solid-state technology is an emerging industry with the potential to revolutionize renewable energy generation and electric vehicle charging access, among other benefits. Transformers are the vehicle for energy transmission and must be durable against heavy power stressors. Conventional transformers do not optimize resources, wasting energy and requiring more micromanaging.
Smart transformer designs maximize energy efficiency by offering more control over voltage variances. Because SSTs can manipulate them smartly, they can better distribute resources with fewer technical difficulties. SSTs are what the renewable energy sector needs — generation systems like solar or wind sometimes produce more power than they can store. Better transformers mean that energy doesn’t go to waste.
3. Consider Weatherization
The smart grid can operate effectively on its own, distributing energy based on data — plus, machine learning can make it even more efficient as increasing data sets make it smarter. However, conventional grids are connected to countless inefficient structures, like old buildings with no insulation. The smart grid will operate more efficiently and provide more power if what it’s connected to is also optimized.
Prioritizing building assessments can make smart grid upgrading seem more daunting when efficiency includes the rest of an area’s structures. However, if every building in a neighborhood added more caulking or updated a window or two, the smart grid would work even better. Minor adjustments like optimizing for sunlight or weatherstripping will help the smart grid astronomically.
4. Advocate for Legislation
Nonprofits and local funding are helpful on smaller-scale projects — which need to happen just as much as larger ones. However, smart grid efficiency cannot improve without national support. Countries should seek to inform representatives how critical federal investments aid infrastructure resilience.
It secures locations committing to smart grids from hackers or extreme weather. Additionally, advocacy levels energy access worldwide, giving power literally and figuratively to underprivileged and smaller communities to increase opportunities for their citizens.
Improving Smart Grid Efficiency Helps the World
Investing in smart grids helps every aspect of life, even outside major cities. Workplace productivity, commute reliability and internet connectivity improve when smart grid efficiency increases.
The smart grid is still relatively new. More improvements are uncovered as humans experiment with its capabilities. These revelations don’t hinder development — they are opportunities and insights into how streamlined, eco-friendly and convenient the future will be for all.