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The grid of the future

Posted September 16, 2013
The outlet in your living room doesn’t know a lot—yet. Unaware of whether they are drawing power from wind, solar, gas, or coal plants, the electrical lines that bring us power in many ways still resemble the chaotic, tangled, unidirectional network that has been in place for a century.
The grid of the future
Via smart grid technology, you could plug your car and your home appliances into the electric outlet to “talk” with electricity suppliers to arrange the most convenient or cheapest way to power your home. Manufacturers are working on a standard plug for the home hub, cars, and appliances.

With new and better electronic communication technologies, scientists and engineers from around the country have begun to discuss its replacement: a more adaptable, efficient, reliable, and responsive national electrical network called the “smart grid.”

“Ideally, the grid of the future should be one that gives the consumer as much flexibility as possible,” said Argonne energy systems analyst Guenter Conzelmann.

Conzelmann and his colleagues at Argonne have started an initiative to develop better and more powerful modeling capabilities to help us improve how electricity is generated and distributed.

“There are many positive changes to the grid that we have already started to see, such as some families using their own small wind turbines or solar panels to generate power, and this will only continue to spread,” Conzelmann said. As consumers start generating their own energy, sometimes in significant quantities, utilities and electrical engineers have begun an ambitious restructuring of the grid from the bottom up, said Argonne power grid program director Mark Petri.

“The task we’re charged with doing is closer to reconstructive surgery than a mere facelift,” he said.


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