The electric grid has effectively been the same for the past 100 years or so, with centralized generation transferred across transmission and distribution systems to commercial and residential customers servicing their localized demand. Much of this infrastructure in the United States is aging and needs to be updated. Simultaneously, new technologies are emerging which have fundamental impacts on the evolution of the grid. As more and more of our lives rely on digital technologies, the need for a continual, un-interrupted energy supply is ever increasing. Grid Modernization is the collection of technologies, infrastructure and policy changes which when implemented together will lead to the next generation of the electric grid. For the utility, Grid Modernization should provide better real-time situational awareness, more integrated work management and better overall control of a more dynamic electric grid.
During the past decade new non-traditional technologies have matured that fundamentally impact how the next generation grid will look. Distributed generation including, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal power sources have become available, allowing for much cleaner forms of generation. These, coupled with new networks and new sensing devices, are shifting the grid from centralized generation to much broader distributed generation. In addition, the continued growth of electric vehicles, microgrid technologies, and energy storage are providing new opportunities for grid enhancement and modernization. Combine this with the need to replace aging infrastructure and utilities are facing rapid change unseen in many decades.
Although utilities are being impacted at both the technical level and policy level, we will limit the discussion here to technical aspects of Grid Modernization. During this evolution to the next generation grid, utilities will introduce new technologies throughout their systems from new/updated back office systems (including cloud components), to substations, to field devices and edge system operation. These technologies include Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), Smart Grid, Distributed Energy Resources (DER), Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS), Distributed Energy Management Systems (DERMS), Edge Technologies, new networks such as Field Area Networks (FAN), new Distribution Automation (DA) devices and sensor technologies, electric vehicles, battery storage, etc.
Over the coming weeks Wise Men will be providing a series of blogs on some of these fundamental topics of Grid Modernization to provide insight and introduction the new Wise Men Advanced Energy division.