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Smart Grids for Distributed Power

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on February 24th, 2010

Source: Stock & Land

Image: blyzz via flickr CC

From The changing face of rural Australia’s energy supply, by Matt Cawood

THE nature of the power grid is about to fundamentally change, analyst Paul Budde believes.

Instead of a central power station pushing energy out to homes, farms and business sites around the grid, many sites will become capable of generating renewable power and sharing it around the grid via a “smart” management system that uses computer analysis to trigger switchgear. The United States government has just allocated US$20 billion to developing such a grid, and the Australian government is seeking tenders on a more modest $100 million grid linking 10,000 houses.

Mr Budde, whose company BuddeComm has recently released an analysis of smart grid trends and opportunities in Australia, regards the move to smart grids as “absolutely inevitable”.  Currently, nearly a third of all energy generated is wasted because of inefficiencies in the delivery system, he said. “About 10 per cent of all power just disappears. We can’t afford to waste electricity in such a way.”

The cost of fossil-fuel generated electricity continues to climb. A system that helps use power more efficiently—by, for instance, switching on dishwashers in the early hours of the morning instead of during peak load—patterns of energy delivery can be smoothed out and the infrastructure needed to supply energy refined. And then there is the surge in renewable energy generation.   “If we want solar energy, we want it to be efficient. It is not very efficient for everyone to have their own solar panels but not utilising the combined power of what is effectively a giant solar panel if you join them all together. A smart grid does that, and makes the whole system more efficient.”

Farmers have a big role to play in a world of smart grids, Mr Budde said.  “Already in Europe, in places like Denmark and Germany, lots of farmers have windmills—thousands of them. It’s not just for their own properties: they are pumping energy back into the network.  In Australia, solar power generation should be a very useful farming activity.”

From The changing face of rural Australia’s energy supply, by Matt Cawood