Tech View

Grid technology: Being ‘smart’

A quick technological analysis that takes you through ‘What is smart grid?’, ‘What it can do for India’ and ‘How do we do it?’.

Improving the electricity grid in India has been on the government’s agenda since a long time, but it has run into many hurdles, primarily due to the many challenges related to logistics and delivery of electricity to faraway settlements in the country. According to reports, many Indian villages still experience hours of power cuts every day. With the help of smart and connected grids though, the sector can now provide long-distance transmission of electricity at high voltage with simplicity and ease to meet the demand in the country.

‘Smarty’ grids for India
The traditional grid is being integrated with IoT-enabled devices and sensors to now evolve and become smarter, and it is also being driven by an intersection of digital technology and the use of renewable energy.

Saurav Lenka, Business Head, QInfra Solutions, says, “Smart grid facilitates an efficient and reliable delivery system from the source through the integration of renewable energy sources, smart transmission, and distribution. It enables real-time monitoring and control of power system as well as helps in reduction of AT&C losses, demand response, and demand side management, power quality management, outage management, smart home energy system, etc.”

In India, smart grid has the potential to act as a backbone infrastructure to enable new business models such as smart cities, electric vehicles, smart communities and more. Saurav says, “It will also help India in meeting its increasing and widespread demand for power supply in all regions. Smart grid can reduce energy consumption, increase the efficiency of electricity networks, and manage electricity generation from renewable technologies.”

A smart-grid implementation can do wonders for the woeful Indian electricity grid beaten down by voltage and frequency fluctuations, outages and energy losses.

Siddharth Gangal, CEO, The Solar Labs, says, “For reliability, smart grid technology can help quickly identify faults, shorten the frequency and duration of outages and recover faster from failures.”

In summary, improved reliability of electricity, allowing more integration of renewable energy into the grid, supporting the development of a future infrastructure for charging electric vehicles, and bringing in more efficiency for customers to reduce their energy consumption are some of the obvious benefits.

He says, “An efficient, clean and low carbon energy system can only be supported by a new smart grid. We need more smart grids to bring ourselves into the 21st century of EVs, renewables and reliable 24 hours’ electricity.

Smart grid communication technologies
The communication infrastructure is critical for the successful operation of modern smart grids in the country.

Savrav of QInfra Solutions, says,” With the optimisation of these technologies, reduction of energy consumption, optimal operation of the smart grid and coordination between all smart grid components from generation to the end users can be easily monitored and managed. However, we are still in the nascent stage here, so it is too soon to comment on the effectiveness of which technologies work better than the others.”

While some technologies such as ZigBee, WLAN, cellular communication, WiMAX and Power Line Communication are being used for this purpose, they each have their set of pros and cons that need to be evaluated over a longer sample period. Providers have to balance various factors such as security, speed, and cost versus other parameters such as point-to-point communication and control.

He says, “The idea should be to provide last-mile connectivity to meet India’s growing electricity needs, and this can only be achieved by deploying various customisations based on unique needs.”

Many large companies such as Schneider Electric are pioneering smart grid technologies. According to Siddharth Gangal of The Solar Labs, “Real-time grid management and forecasting ability enables optimisation of supply and demand which results in huge cost savings and reliable supply.”

One of the technologies Siddharth suggests is FLISR (fault location, isolation, and service restoration). He says, “It can detect the fault location using real-time information collected from smart devices installed on the electricity grid network and enable quick addressal to get power back on faster. It also can reduce the number of customers affected by outages by islanding.”

Smart grid enables real-time monitoring and control of power system as well as helps in reduction of AT&C losses.
Saurav Lenka, Business Head, QInfra Solutions

Real-time grid management and forecasting ability enables optimisation of supply and demand.
Siddharth Gangal, CEO, The Solar Labs

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