What Does the New Smart Grid Mean to the Power Generation Industry?

smart-grid-power-generation

Larger companies are looking for more innovative ways to optimize their usage of the aptly-named “Smart Grid”.

Since the nuclear stimulus package proposed by Obama a few months ago, larger companies are looking for more innovative ways to optimize their usage of the aptly-named “Smart Grid”.

What is the smart grid? It depends on who ask. According to Jacquelyn Bean of Navigant Consulting, “the smart grid is a collection of building blocks that will be implemented to improve grid visibility, responsiveness, reliability, and operational efficiency.” These building blocks represent generation resources such as: transmission & distribution equipment, sensors, actuators, customer applications, management applications, control systems, and market applications. Power OEMs also believe that the smart grid is a combination of existing infrastructure, information technology, market pricing mechanisms, and distributed generation to enable a reliable, efficient, and secure energy delivery system.

With some of the larger power companies utilizing the new smart grid, they are going to have a need for a turbine that can operate at lower minimum value without the major loss of efficiency. Dave Hawkins, lead renewables power engineer at the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) mentioned that, “greater flexibility will be a key strategy while maintaining reasonable heat rates and minimum environmental impact.”

Due to this expected increase in demand for gas turbines, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. estimated that natural gas will surpass coal for peaking power by 2011. The increase in smart grid usage is likely to have a significant impact on power generation capacity needs, resource mix, and operations.

…“greater flexibility will be a key strategy while maintaining reasonable heat rates and minimum environmental impact.”

Due to this expected increase in demand for gas turbines, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. estimated that natural gas will surpass coal for peaking power by 2011. The increase in smart grid usage is likely to have a significant impact on power generation capacity needs, resource mix, and operations.

This smart grid is expected to add in all types of renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydro) in addition to coal, nuclear, and gas turbine. Most people tend to associate the smart grid with renewable energy like wind and solar however, as more renewable resources are added, better ways are needed to balance out the spurious production curves they produce. Small gas turbines, combined heat and power (CHP) units, and solar PV will be put to use in the microgrids, and the smaller gas turbines will probably continue to be used for that purpose.

With so much intermittent renewable resources being used, gas turbine requirements will have to be adjusted to include such features as: quicker starts, more frequent shutdowns, and operation at lower minimum values without major loss of efficiency.

What does this smart grid mean for the power generation industry as a whole? This means we are going to have to rethink the ways in which we are generating power, and the overall efficiency of our methods. We have to keep in mind that the market is dictated by commercial considerations which demand the lowest price per kW- and that means real projects will continue to mean centralized operations and large-scale turbines.

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