January 19, 2009
I’m an ex-power engineer (having designed and operated power networks) working in the area of renewables. I disagree on a fundamental level with the comments by GE’s Keith Redfearn concerning ‘Smart Grids’ and that renewables targets are too demanding for the existing transmission network.
Regarding ‘Smart Grids’, Mr. Redfearn makes a couple of assumptions. First, that people will look at ‘smart meters’ and switch things on and off according to the prices on offer. In the real world, I would suggest that this is hugely unlikely. Furthermore, technology such as dynamic demand management fitted to appliances such as fridges and freezers could do the same thing, at a lower cost and without human intervention. However, if you are in the game of selling high priced ‘smart meters’, this may not be all that interesting.
Secondly, making the transmission network or different layers of the distribution network (disnet) ‘smart’ will not make them either more efficient or easier to manage. In the case of the disnet, the layout and the way in which different layers interact is rigidly fixed. There is no need to introduce ‘smartness’ into this network.
There are two areas where things need to change: rural networks and transmission networks. First, taking the example of North Wales, there is huge potential for wind but the rural overhead line network is incapable of moving the power to where it could be used (this issue was briefly mentioned by Klaus Kleinekorte of RWE when you interviewed him in December 2008). The issue of who pays to strengthen the network has yet to be addressed. Again, smart grids bring nothing to the issue.
Second, in the case of transmission networks, more thought (and investment) is needed to connect off-shore wind to existing transmission networks. The Germans have started some work in this area, but the Brits need to get their skates on. Again, there is no role in any of this for ‘Smart Grids’. The transmission network is already controlled in real time, and there is little need for real-time control of the disnet. Where is the role for Smart ‘Grids’?
Final comments: In the time-frame 2010–2020, electric vehicles (EVs) will become important both as a transport mode and potential stores of power. However, a combination of on-board ‘intelligence’ plus dynamic demand management will be sufficient to integrate EVs and their power demand/power storage capabilities with existing distribution networks.
Smart Grids? Smart baloney.
Ex-MANWEB, ex-Sony.Author : Andreas