New iGrid reports:
The Intelligent Grid Research Program is an Australian collaboration between the CSIRO and five universities investigating technologies and practices to make our electricity networks smart, greener and more efficient.
The electricity “grid” is a collective name for all wires, transformers and infrastructure that transport electricity from power plants to users. In all networks, some energy is lost as it is travels, making distribution inefficient.
An “intelligent” electricity grid has a minimal amount of waste and a highly efficient use of power. It is an electricity network that uses distributed energy resources and advanced communication and control technologies to deliver electricity more cost-effectively, with lower greenhouse intensity and in response to consumer needs.
Distributed energy means, smaller forms of electricity generation and management of energy use combined to balance out the load of all the users on the system. For example, distributed energy resources could involve heating, cooling and powering a commercial building using a combination of solar panels, micro turbines, fuel cells energy efficiency and load control.
Small generators include wind turbines, solar panels, micro turbines, fuel cells and cogeneration (combined heat and power). These types of energy sources can be closer to the users, rather than one large centralised source a long way away. Some rely on renewable energy with no greenhouse emissions and others make more efficient use of conventional power generated from coal.
Advanced types of control and management technologies for the electricity grid can also make it run more efficiently overall. These include things like advanced control systems and smart electricity meters that show real-time use and costs and can respond to remote communication and dynamic electricity pricing.
Elements of an Intelligent Grid
There are many reasons to improve how our electricity systems perform. Creating more distributed energy solutions and a more “intelligent” grid will have concrete benefits for both the environment and the economy.
In Australia, 80% of the energy consumed is supplied from coal-based power stations, which creates harmful greenhouse gases and is contributing to climate change. Any power that is lost in transmission is a wasted resource and also contributes to Australia’s unwanted greenhouse gas emissions.
For power companies, transmission losses represent lost revenue; and as the demand for power increases, it means companies and government have to spend a significant amount of money on building more infrastructure. By making the whole system run smarter, we can reduce transmission losses, reduce wastage, and also make the supply itself greener.
In addition, a large proportion of the costs of electricity supply are incurred in the construction of and augmentation of the distribution system (poles, wires and transformers) often to meet peaks that occur infrequently. The use of energy sources and demand reduction methods located at or near customers can reduce these costs significantly.
An intelligent grid will use energy much more efficiently and generate that energy closer to the point at which it is needed. It will seamlessly integrate intermittent renewable energy sources into the wider network. Intelligent grid technologies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase reliability of supply, minimise energy waste and deliver higher levels of consumer choice and flexibility.
The Commonwealth Science and Research Organisation (CSIRO) have created a series of National Research Flagships. National Research Flagships are large-scale multidisciplinary research partnerships that harness world-class expertise to tackle these national priorities.
The National Research Flagships program Initiated by CSIRO in 2003, and is one of the largest scientific research endeavours ever undertaken in Australia, with the total investment to 2010-11 expected to be close to AUD$1.5 billion. There are now eight flagship areas, and this group of research projects falls under the auspices of “The Energy Transformed Flagship”.
Intelligent Grid is a 3-year collaborative research project running from July 2008 to June 2011and undertaken by five universities- University of Technology, Sydney, University of Queensland, and University of South Australia, Queensland University of technology and Curtin University. It has $3.4 million in funding from CSIRO and a further $6.1 million from the collaborating institutions.
The Intelligent Grid Cluster of research will contribute to the CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship’s research goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions and doubling the efficiency of the nation’s new energy generation, supply and end use technologies.
CSIRO - Energy Transformed