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How Does a Smart Electrical Grid Work?

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“A smart grid is a modernized electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.” Source:

smart grid illustrationThe North American power grid is an incredibly complex system, with a web of more than 340,000 kilometres of high-voltage transmission lines connecting thousands of generating stations, tens of thousands of transformers and control stations, and millions of homes and businesses. Many regions in North America are moving towards a smart grid — one with a built-in information infrastructure that allows the entire grid to be monitored and controlled from a distance.

Here are some of the key ways the smart grid could interact with a typical home:

Smart meter: These are the first components of the smart grid being installed in homes across the country. They’re “smart” because they’re hooked up to the utility’s information network. That means they can be read and monitored remotely by both the utility and the customer, and they allow the utility to charge higher rates during peak usage periods, to encourage people to use power at cheaper, off-peak hours.

Smart appliances: Fridges, dishwashers and other devices hooked up to the utility’s information network can make users aware when peak pricing is in effect. They can automatically reduce power use during peak periods, e.g., a smart dryer may turn off one of its heaters. They can also postpone power-hungry operations until off-peak periods, e.g., a refrigerator may delay turning on its defrost system and a dishwasher may be scheduled to run after midnight.

Smart thermostat: Thermostats and other smart energy systems can be programmed and monitored remotely via the internet. For example, the heat can be turned down on a cold day when no one is home.

Power generation: The smart grid will make it possible for individual customers to generate power using solar or wind energy and feed it back into the grid when they have a surplus.

Energy storage: The battery of an electric car stores energy that can theoretically be sold back to the grid at a higher price during peak times.

Not only will the smart grid make it easier to make use of small, renewable power sources and respond to outages, but governments hope the exchange of information between customers and utilities will help encourage people to reduce their power consumption during peak hours.


Topics: smart gridelectrical gridpower generation

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