Smart Grid Technologies for Modernizing the Electric Grid
In December 2021 and July 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy announced major plans for this nation’s electric infrastructure to change the future for the next generation. Smart grids are a key component in modernizing the electric grid and creating sustainable energy resources for all. Renewable Energy experts will agree, this is the only way to keep up with Americans’ growing needs for reliable power.
In our recent article, How Grid Modernization Advances Equity, we explored how lowering costs for disadvantaged people and people of color through grid modernization is a major shift in the right direction under the Biden-Harris Administration. Here, we discuss how smart grid technologies and renewable energy integration can be applied to this process and change our electric infrastructure for the better.
What is Smart Grid Technology?
The European Union Commission Task Force for Smart Grids said it best: “A Smart Grid is an electricity network that can cost efficiently integrate the behavior and actions of all users connected to it.” Smart grid technology describes the ways in which professionals in the Energy industry can upgrade and improve the grid to make it “smarter” with advancements that were not available at the time of the grid’s construction.
The U.S. electric grid is an engineering marvel with more than 9,200 electric generating units having more than 1 million megawatts of generating capacity connected to more than 600,000 miles of transmission lines. Under the umbrella of the phrase “electric grid” comes an entire ecosystem of asset owners, manufacturers, services providers, government officials, and more jobs than could be enumerated working together to provide energy to the nation’s people.
Making the Grid Smarter with New Technology
Smart Grid technologies consist of the two-way communication systems among generators, transmitters, control systems, and computer processing. When this system was constructed, the demands placed upon it by American consumers was nowhere near what it is today. The infrastructure is aging (physically) and is unable to keep up with demands for operating at a much higher capacity than was intended. The objectives:
- Allow operators to assess stability more easily
- Provide quality information and data
- Implement automatic reporting systems for outages
- Instill recovery processes from faults
- Re-route power in the event of problems
- Store excess energy for surges in customer demand.
The mutual intelligence between the grid and the data applies to energy management, maintenance, proactive measures for reliability and resilience, and integration of renewable energy technologies throughout.
Renewable Energy and Grid Modernization
The renewable energy technology that exists today provides opportunities for more sustainable and disaster-resistant measures to mix with the electrical grid infrastructure of the past. By combining the benefits of the grid with those of renewable energy sourcing, the infrastructure may enjoy the pros of each while minimizing the cons.
Solar and wind energy (the two most popular means of sustainable and renewable energy) have been challenged for long-term effectiveness by their intermittent nature. Redirecting the power into batteries and fuel cells, along with other means of storage that are present within the modernized grid, allows for harnessing the most power available in an optimized way.
A modernized grid enables all participants to benefit from the new introduction of new technologies, from distributed resources to advanced communications and controls, as described by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Careers in Grid Infrastructure
As efforts expand to make this a reality after over a decade of discussion and progress, we are beginning to see positive impact on the nation in several ways. The creation of clean energy jobs is a major factor in the Biden-Harris administration’s agenda for creating equity in housing and opportunities for financial success. The new programs are dedicated to:
- Connecting families and states to low-cost solar power
- Empowering rural housing authorities to reduce burdens on families
- Strengthening America’s solar workforce
- Bringing new federal resources to communities
The U.S. Department of Energy is working to enhance their existing residential Weatherization Assistance Program to help lower consumer costs, particularly for underrepresented people. The result is the expansion of the country’s weatherization workforce with development programs, outreach and recruitment, job readiness, mentorship, stipends, partnerships with labor organizations and unions, and more to help reduce barriers to employment of underrepresented populations.
Hiring for Electrical Grid Modernization
What is your company doing to keep up with grid modernization? Progressive has project teams across the United States with the expertise you need. Get in touch with us to learn more about our services.
Are you looking for a new role in grid infrastructure? Progressive places skilled people with innovative clients across the country for top jobs. Get in touch with us to learn more about grid infrastructure opportunities.