In the Product Design & Development Brainstorm, we talk with industry leaders to get their perspective on issues
critical to the design engineering marketplace. In this issue, we ask:
How are developers responding to interoperability concerns and grid instabilities?
How are advances in energy storage options benefiting the smart grid?
There is no smart grid without interoperability. Many of the key
benefits utilities hope to gain through investments in smart grid technologies – such as distribution automation and advanced metering
infrastructure – require seamless interaction of devices from multiple
How are developers responding? When developing isolation communication technology with our customers, we see a definite trend
toward non-proprietary communication standards. For example,
narrowband power line communication (PLC) standards like PRIME,
G3-PLC, and IEEE P1901.2 allow edge devices to communicate with
data collection devices from competing manufacturers. In the last few
years, standards specifically designed for smart grid communication
have started to mature. In addition to the freedom to interchange
vendors for the same product, like a smart meter, use of open communication standards leaves a larger opportunity on the horizon.
Smart grid innovation continues to move at an overwhelming
pace. These new opportunities can help the business case for invest-
ment. At the same time, reliance on unproven technologies works
against a heavily regulated industry
requiring long-term cost-benefit anal-
ysis for investments. Non-proprietary
standards offer the flexibility to add
features incrementally as technology
advances and matures.
For these same reasons, newer energy storage technologies must mature
in order to advance as viable options
to reduce net peak load. Most of the
large-scale, capital-intensive technologies under development will probably
remain cost prohibitive through the end of the decade. Scalable
options requiring less capital investment are gaining increasing interest, but they face the same regulatory and interoperability concerns
as previous smart grid innovations. For example, promising vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology will require progress on communication
and safety standards before utilities can truly benefit.
Global megatrends to reduce CO2 and other emissions,
government legislation, and improved energy efficiency are
driving increased content of renewables to the grid. Today,
we see an ever-increasing amount of renewable energy generation penetrating the grid, and continued strong investment in clean energy sources such as wind and solar.
As an increasing amount of renewables are placed to the
grid, there is an inherent intermittency in power generation
related to both wind and cloud cover. Utilities tend to compensate for this short-term intermittency by ramping up
peaker plants, which are typically natural gas or coal-fired.
To be able to respond to the intermittency quickly enough,
these plants are constantly idling or operating sub-opti-mally. Therefore, energy storage is becoming an increasingly viable
solution to decrease peaker plant usage and delay traditional power
generation and transmission upgrades required to handle renewable
In regions where there is already high renewables content and the
price of fossil fuel is expensive, for example Hawaii, energy storage
technologies are being evaluated to overcome grid stability issues.
Energy storage can provide multiple benefits, including voltage and power stabilization, smoothing out
the power output of wind and solar, storing energy
when there is over-generation, and using stored
energy when there is peak demand. Further, energy
storage has an advantage in that it can be sited
anywhere – at the generation site, at the power
distribution level, or “behind the meter” at the commercial and residential level.
Utilities and other energy storage customers
demand a product that is cost effective and flex-
ible enough to respond to a number of different
grid issues. Typically, battery technology is used to
respond to grid issues and is best suited to store and deliver hours’
worth of energy. However, more than 65 percent of all grid issues that
occur last less than one minute, and therefore ultracapacitors are the
preferred technology. By combining batteries and ultracapacitors at the
system level to provide a total solution, both short-term and long-term
grid issues can be addressed. This system hybrid solution can best
meet customer cost and life expectations.
Product Manager, Metering and Telecom Markets
Wurth Electronics Midcom
Senior Product Marketing Manager