We stand at a very unique time in the electric grid's evolution and at the same time we stand at a very critical time for taking action on climate change.
Many countries are struggling to lessen climate impact and at the same time continue to grow their economies. Using renewable energy technology is a way to both continue to provide meaningful work for people and at the same time reduce global carbon dioxide levels and other environmental impacts of energy use by modern society, says ProfessorPeter Mark Jansson, electrical engineering.
"We stand at a very unique time in the electric grid's evolution and at the same time we stand at a very critical time for taking action on climate change. The ways that we're choosing to use energy to meet our needs as a civilization are not only inefficient, but also seem to be hazardous to the environment," says Jansson. "As a civilization, we mobilize a lot of our energy and resources through the electric system and as we put new technologies out there for the consumer they get to decide what they want to do. As we come up with new ways to generate electricity that are actually better for the environment the present utility system is not intelligent enough to take it all in and use it reliably for distribution to consumers."
How do we meet the energy needs of society in ways that protect the things that we love the most about the planet – all the ecology, the biosphere? How do we use the current assets of the electric power grid more effectively? Making better use of all those expensive grid assets – transmission, distribution, transformation – says Jansson.
One way is to build a smart electric power grid. The current system is not able to control the different power needs in residences and businesses or to take advantage of renewable energy generation. A move towards intelligence would use power to meet the actual energy use of the customer without inconveniencing them and without putting stress on the grid that might reduce its quality or reliability.
"We can make a smart grid because of the economies that exist with the infrastructure that we currently have and the investments that the free market and private sector are making in renewables," says Jansson. "We can actually make it smarter, use it more effectively, and if it's smarter then it will work in concert with consumers to better control loads in homes and businesses and as renewable sources become more available and become more and more economic it will integrate seamlessly."
Posted September 20, 2011