SMART GRID The New Energy Policy

Overview of New Energy Concepts in the U.S.

 The objective of this article is to provide a layman’s perspective of how the Smart Grid program being implemented will produce clean and efficient energy. Some members of Congress continually castigate the government for not having a energy policy. We need to understand that oil production is much higher now. Also natural gas released due to fracking is at all-time highs, holding the price of natural gas down. Coal fired power plants are converting to natural gas., ripping out the rail which delivered coal. Moreover, the administration has opened up vast area’s of Federal Lands. The difference is that if the oil company sits on the leases, they are taken back and sold to people who will produce immediately.


Despite these record production rates, the price of auto gas is going up. That is because industry is shutting down refineries or converting them between summer and winter blends. The thing to recognize is that oil and gas are internationally fungible. This means the crude oil is sold at international levels and not by local supplies.  Based on this, we can expect auto gas to get to near $4.00 in the mid-west, higher on the coasts.  The price is set by the consumer who will stop buying at $4.00

The Smart Grid contains many elements however we will limit our discussion to those used for alternative energy.

Wind Mills

Wind Mills are getting more economical and we are getting a lot of experience in


them. The winds from North Dakota to Texas are called the Saudi Arabia of wind.Locations on each of the coasts have a lot of wind both on and off shore. The wind blows day and night providing a much more consistent source through the day. The intensity of the wind is a major factor when the wind turbine is connected directly to the grid.  Rotation of windmill must be controlled in a narrow range. That is done by pitching the blades. However if a wind turbine feeds a battery, energy can be generated for a wider range of wind speeds. The Battery voltage feeds a grid through a inverter which converts / generates a AC voltage similar to a grid. The invertor technology is quite mature and is made up of stolid state power devices.

Photovoltaic – Soar Cell

Large advances are being made in this industry with China being a major contender. They need  the volume to serve their own populations. They have significant solar installations in western China has major pollution problem’s already, so clean energy is a very desirable approach. Costs have come down due to “economies to scale”  in production. That said, solar farms in the south west desert states are being constructed and selling contracts to utilities. DTE Energy solar panel test sites are being set up in Michigan A lot of the installations are government supported or backed. The important factor is that a database of original

Energy Storage

This is the segment showing the most progress. In terms of overall grid efficiency. Simply put, variable power outputs from wind and solar can be accumulated thru the day  and inserted into the grid in a moments notice as required.

Pumped Hydro

Pumped Hydro is the process of pumping water to a higher level holding pond and running the water through the turbines to turn the generators, Google pumped hydro and you will see several sites across the United States. These are used primarily used as peaking units supplying power in peak load times. The water is pumped up to the higher level during low usage times when excess reserves of cheaper power are available are available. Google “Robert Moses pumped hydro” for a elaborate discussion of operation in Wikopedia.




Batteries are being continuously developed to provide more energy density storage. Think of a automotive gas tank as a example of high density storage. Sudden release of the energy is like a bomb. It is important to know that battery thermal control is a important element of operation. The picture to the right is in Johnson City NY. The AES project is described here: First 8 MW installed with total of 20 MW to be installed.

The Duke Energy Notrees Wind Storage Project Description is here: It is important to recognize at this time that grid battery storage in megawatts is relatively small compared to the grid capability. So for the time being the battery will support transient demands that the grid is not capable of supplying. The Notrees literature defines how it can be used.  Simply put the battery captures transient energy and stores it for later grid support operations. This will change as new technology and storage density increases.

Hybrid and Electric Car battery charging.

Initially the battery charging stations extract energy from the grid typically at home in night hours when excess energy is available from the grid.  In emergencies, It is expected that energy can be extracted from the car battery storage to provide local emergency use. For example if  a power outage is experienced, power can be extracted for low use functions such as refrigerators, freezers and lighting. The battery will have a Inverter to convert dc to ac. This would be to a electric circuit feeding the critical devices.

The key factor to a automotive battery scheme is that during evening hours the grid is off peak and the base load is not in jeopardy. It is expected that off peak charging will be at a lower cost per Kilowatt. A lot of test sites are being set up for solar charging of batteries. It is expected that these will be charging stations for cars at work. A side benefit of this would also to keep your car in the shade during the day. These units will be feasible in the South West U.S. It is being tried in Michigan also.

Gas Turbines Generating Station

A aircraft jet engine is a example of a gas turbine. These units can be mounted in a ground frame and connected to a electrical generator. Various sizes are sold and are often used today as peaking units. They have a relative fast starting capability and be used in a combined cycle capability where the heat of the engine is used for other purposes contributing to higher efficiency. For whatever reason, the U.S. is expected to have plentiful supplies of natural gas available. Coal fired generating plants are being converted to natural gas improving the environment. The concept of distributed generation is to improve reliability of the grid. It eliminates transmission lines for the distribution of energy. More over natural gas sources are being discovered in many places in the U.S.. It is envisioned that gas turbines can be located where natural gas is plentiful. They would be used near wind and solar locations. The combined sources could define mini grid area’s providing reliable cheap power. Image to the right is a gas turbine model that could be used in a distributed network.

Rectifier / Inverter  

The Rectifier converts Alternating Current to Direct current   A typical application would be solar farm  a variable speed wind turbine feeding a Grid Storage Battery. The Inverter rectifier is a solid state module capable of converting a Direct Current battery to a Alternating Current power Grid. As a industry,  Rectifier / Inverters are quite mature and reliable.  Economies to Scale production cost reductions are available to maturity of the industry and the ever increasing units to be purchased in the alternative energy industry. The yellow boxes ar the power inverters for solar cell DC to power line AC.

They are fast acting devices (sub second) capable of responding to power line stabilization situations. An example of this would be the sudden failure / cut out of a energy source ( windmill / gas turbine) . The connected battery would be able to respond in sub seconds to keep the line active.

Distributed Generation

In the recent past, power generation was done at large central plants and transmission lines were used to deliver the energy via switchgear and transformers.  These units would continue to supply a base load.  Distributed energy systems ( Solar, Windmill, Battery and Gas Turbine) can be used as peaking units. The following is a comprehensive discussion of Distributed Energy

Distributed Energy Basics


From this article


Distributed energy refers to a variety of small, modular power-generating technologies that can be combined with load management and energy storage systems to improve the quality and/or reliability of the electricity supply. They are “distributed” because they are placed at or near the point of energy consumption, unlike traditional “centralized” systems, where electricity is generated at a remotely located, large-scale power plant and then transmitted down power lines to the consumer.

From Wikopedia : Electric power transmission

From the Article

Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 6.6% in 1997] and 6.5% in 2007. Hence if increased demand can be met with Distributed Power generating modules near the demand, we should eliminate additional building of Power Lines which is not received well in the public. Distributed power modules could be gas turbine peaking units, variable windmill and solar cells. Windmill and Solar can take care of peaking and transient loads. The addition of a local storage battery would be very favorable to meeting higher transient loads.


Smart Meters

Smart Meters provide the power company instant information regarding the service to a house. It can provide the utility immediate information regarding presence and magnitude of energy being delivered. For instance in a power outage, the power company can determine what houses are with out service, pointing to the location of the service disconnect. Previous alerts were phone calls from the residents, how ever location of the fault required investigations which could take time. By way of direct experience, previously power outages could take 6 hours to fix. A recent event took 3 hours to fix. Utilities that installed smart meters report drastic reductions of dispatched trucks. The reader is reminded that the water and gas meters are also smart.

ICE energy storage systems

ICE storage time shifts energy use from hottest part of the days to the evening  

Energy Storage on Ice

From the article

Put another way, the company wants to freeze water at night in refrigerator-like boxes adjacent to commercial air conditioners and then thaw it during the day, when power demand is highest. This would theoretically allow AC-hungry commercial buildings in warm climates to cut energy use during heat waves, by shutting air conditioners down while still providing cool air to buildings from melting ice.

A measure of maturity of the technology is the availability of commercial devices to implement the Ice technology. The ICE Energy Corporation markets the ICE Bear unit

Video titled  Ice Energy: Discover the Power of Ice! (Energy Storage) 4 min video

ICE Energy markets the ICE Bear

Bear is one of the commercial systems available today

This reference provides a description of the Bear Energy Storage System

Current Status – 2013

Coal fired power plants are becoming replaced with gas generators.  Natural Gas is becoming the predominate energy source. The Dakota oil and gas fields are producing and oil is being shipped to refineries via rail until pipe lines are developed. The alternative energy modules are in their initial phases of implementation. Windmills and solar cells are being installed (Often with Government support) and operational experience is developing. Batteries are installed to provide support service, not requiring large discharges of power. The same is happening with the Hybrid automotive industry Automotive is delivered to the customers and they are developing fast chargers and overnight charging. Power companies and automotive are installing test sites in terms of charging batteries during the day wutg solar. Key to this implementation is reduced costs of installation ( local regulation) and the ability to sell surplus power back into the grid. Equipment to enable this is readily available on the commercial market

Further Reading

There are several organizations actively participating in the prototype and testing of the Smart.

This is a layperson introduction to what the smart grid is


Smart Grid – The Big Picture


EPRI Smart Grid Demonstration projects – Four Video’s describing some EPRI programs and provides a short overview of  technologies being pursued.

Select the “Play All button under the title for short videos showing programs already in place

IEEE Smart Grid  

Advanced concept for Grid Batteries from U of Texas

Large-Scale Storage of Alternative Energy




Grid-Scale Battery Storage – A123 initiated advanced concepts. Company went to bankruptcy, was split up and specific projects restarted






There are long video’s available on YouTube which provide detail video providing insight into practical problems in installing Smart Grid concepts. They provide insight into the integrated implementation phases of a program. Youtube T&D 2012 Two examples are provided below


Insight into implementation of Smart Grid projects – interface to customers

T&D 2012 – Wed. May 9th: Panel – Lessons Learned From Smart Grid Dep

This video talks about key disciplines needing advancement

T&D 2012 The Future of Smart Grid: Technology, Policy, Standards & Co


About fiscalliberal

New blogger primarily in financial and government issues. Retired male (71) who has followed lifetime of politics and read extensively on the financial crisis
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