Recent years have seen a new wave of technology and opportunities hit the energy sector, several of which have been presented by the onset of big data and Internet of Things technology.

Ensuring that supply meets the customers’ demand is a key responsibility of the energy industry. Martyn Williams, managing director of industrial software company COPA-DATA UK and Mark Hardy, chief executive of Capula write for Power Engineering International Magazine on how these smart technologies are changing the way the grid generates, manages, distributes and stores energy.

Smart grids integrate intelligent controls, telecommunications, industrial automation, SCADA software and new technologies with the legacy equipment of existing infrastructure. New technologies enable the electrical grid to instantly respond to our changing energy demands, creating a more efficient transmission of electricity.

Other benefits associated with the smart grid include quicker restoration after power failures, improved security, remote engineering capabilities, lower electricity rates for consumers and, crucially, better integration and easy expansion of new and existing renewable energy systems.

Historically, the traditional electrical grid has had difficulty accommodating alternative sources of power. But as renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are supplying an increasing percentage of the UK’s power, simplifying renewable integration to the grid is essential.

Fossil-fuel power plants operate at a premitigated output level, meing they provide a consistent and predictable amount of electricity. However, some forms of renewable power are reliant on a fluctuating resource. In the cases of wind or solar power, for example, if the wind speed slows or clouds obscure sunlight from solar panels, the energy output will drop without warning. Smart technology is able to predict when this might happen and automatically identify and execute an alternative energy source to make up for a potential decrease in energy supply.

By integrating intelligent SCADA software, data can be collected and archived onsite or in the cloud.

Much of the discussion surrounding smart grids and renewables is still at the conceptual or proof-of-concept stage and it can be difficult to translate these technologies into real, tangible strategies for the existing electrical system. However, there are a few technologies that are already leading the way in the smart grid race.

IoT-fuelled distribution

In October 2016, Reactive Technologies used smart technology to transmit data across the national energy grid for the first time in history. The new system inserts data as small changes into the 50 Hz signal itself, which jumps the air gap that previously prevented the transmission from taking place.

This technology is capable of sending messages through electricity cables to appliances such as heaters, fridges and kettles that use a smart plug. This tells appliances to make small variations in their energy usage, marginally reducing the overall consumption of thousands of homes and businesses.


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Big data in the energy sector is a key pillar of Electrify Europe conference and exhibition in Vienna next month. For more details click here.