How technology convergences benefit the smart grid

Editor's Note: To understand what's next for the convergence of smart grid technologies be sure to check out VERGE@Greenbuild, November 12-13.

The term "convergence" aptly describes some important smart grid trends. Grid modernization is tremendously influenced by the convergence of IT or information technologies into what is typically known as OT (operations technologies) that manage traditional utility power grid operations.

One result is that formerly non-communicative equipment like meters and transformers can transmit and receive data for remote monitoring and control. Business intelligence and data analytics solutions, long available in other business sectors, are now being deployed by utilities to support proactive grid management. The benefits of IT/OT convergence include reduced costs and carbon footprints and improved grid reliability through intelligent maintenance programs.

The convergence of IT with materials science research is anticipated to improve energy storage technologies that are vital to the smart Grid. With funding assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and other centers have been compiling data about materials to improve predictability and design of new materials.

The results so far include acceleration of previously time-consuming and expensive iterative processes to develop and modify the properties of materials to improve performance. Imagine how Thomas Edison would have enjoyed this IT/materials science convergence to develop the incandescent light bulb. He would have benefited from a database to identify the most practical, reliable, and cost-effective materials. Instead, as he so famously stated, "We now know a thousand ways to not build a light bulb."

Similar technology convergences can have positive impacts on energy efficiency in improved integrated circuits and system on chip (SoC) technologies and designs. Chips that produce less wasted energy in the form of heat require less energy for cooling. Components that are energy-efficient result in appliances and electronics gear that have a reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) for consumers and businesses.

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