Ideas to develop Embedded Devices for Smart Grid
Wikipedia definition of smart grid is a type of electrical grid which attempts to predict and intelligently respond to the behavior and actions of all electric power users connected to it - suppliers, consumers and those that do both – in order to efficiently deliver reliable, economic, and sustainable electricity services. To enable such a system, information regarding the generation, flow and utilization of electricity should be collected from the grid, shared with all players in the system via various communication channels and processed appropriately. Only then the grid could intelligently respond to the behavior of all electric power users connected to it.
However, the grid is managed depending on the structure of the electricity market of each country and there are fundamental information that each market would definitely need for the following reasons;
a) To detect the outages ahead of time to increase the quality of service provided to consumers.
b) To predict the consumption or power flow of each local area ahead of time to prevent the system from going into unbalanced generation-consumption cycle. Inaccurate predictions cause wrong energy generation plans and the unbalanced power generation-consumption causes outages. The cost of this unbalance is usually somehow reflected to suppliers.
c) To generate the consumption profile of each consumer or even each appliance to develop energy management strategies for towers, corporations, campuses and other consumers that have thousands of users on a single site.
d) To collect accurate and timely data on energy capacities, flow and utilization for commodity and financial markets. Energy trading companies pay hundreds of thousands dollars for such real-time information.
Monitoring the grid would definitely allow the suppliers to manage their energy generation facilities better, come up with more accurate consumption predictions so that they make better plans for power generation. It would also give us the opportunity to receive a service with higher quality and lower our bills as consumers and help energy trading companies to make better forecasts in the day-ahead markets they are playing in.
Monitoring is one aspect of Smart Grid. Another aspect is to create a respond to the behavior of all electrical power users connected to the grid. In this sense, the appliances must have some form of "cooperation" - communication interface- with the grid or new devices should be developed to non-intrusively monitor the grid and/or receive information from data centers regarding the hourly tariff of energy consumption and make decisions for us to reduce the bills. Turning off the highest source of consumption, if allowed by the user, during the times the unit consumption of energy has a higher price compared to the other hours and turning it back on when the tariff is lower is one example of this decision making mechanisms. Therefore, the monitoring systems should securely provide real-time data to these concerning entities. From householders, utility companies to energy trading companies, many entities would be the customer of this data.
Collecting and conveying this information on a network and providing security to this information exchange are other challenges developers of Smart Grid community should think about. I look at all this from two different perspectives. One as a researcher’s point of view to conduct my studies regarding Smart Grid and the other as a chief embedded systems developer’s point of view to come up with innovative ideas to enable the design and development of these devices that would make our grids one day “smart”. I recommend the embedded system developers to rise their heads time to time from their messy desks, stop playing with their toys (DSPs, ARMs, FPGAs, etc.) and look around for such opportunities in developing markets. These ideas could be inspirations to many interfunctioning devices and become the base of many start-ups.
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