Recent years have seen a number of widespread power blackouts across the globe, following natural disasters such as hurricanes Sandy, Irene and Tomas in the U.S., and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
Hurricane Sandy left at least five million homes and businesses in dark, and in some places the outages continued for more than two weeks.
This implies the need for a smarter grid, an interconnected system responsive to the forces acting on it, capable of reporting statuses and restoring the power supply faster, according to a study by GlobalData.
Smart grids are a combination of advanced power electronics and communication technologies attached to conventional transmission and distribution systems. This technological amalgamation is reshaping how utilities work and stay in touch with customers, providing new ways to minimize the frequency of outages and restore power quickly.
Modern circuit breakers help in isolating faults. Sensors help to identify dark areas, downed power lines in affected areas and can communicate the status to utilities. A Geographical Information System (GIS) maps the utilities' assets installed in the field, and a Global Positioning System (GPS) can automatically route the power around the affected area, allowing electricity to continue to flow to the customer.
Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) integrated with outage management systems (OMS) report outages to the utilities and helps to deploy the workforce in an efficient way. Energy storage technologies come into play in situations of demand supply imbalance, thus reducing the stress on the grid. Distribution automation Systems (DAS) will help by enabling two-way communications between a variety of electrical devices to identify and isolate faults and hence lead to a quick restoration of service.