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Enabling Technology

Various technologies that enable smart grid operation can be grouped into five key technology areas. According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Modern Grid Strategy, these categories are: advanced components, advanced control methods, sensing and measurement, improved interfaces and decision support, and integrated communications.

See below for sample smart grid technologies by key technology area.

Key Technology Area

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Advanced Components

Advanced components "Advanced components play an active role in determining the electrical behavior of the grid. They can be applied in either standalone applications or connected together to create complex systems such as microgrids. These components are based on fundamental research and development (R&D) gains in power electronics, superconductivity, materials, chemistry, and microelectronics."

Examples of Advanced Components include flexible AC transmission system (FACTS), smart meter, and solid-state transfer switch. See "A Systems View of the Modern Grid - Appendix B3: Advanced Component v2.0" by the NETL Modern Grid Strategy Team.

Advanced Control Methods

Advanced Control Method technologies are "the devices and algorithms that will analyze, diagnose, and predict conditions in the modern grid and determine and take appropriate corrective actions to eliminate, mitigate, and prevent outages and power quality disturbances. These methods will provide control at the transmission, distribution, and consumer levels and will manage both real and reactive power across state boundaries."

Examples of Advanced Control Methods include substation automation, distribution automation, feeder automation, and grid friendly appliance controller. See "A Systems View of the Modern Grid - Appendix B4: Advanced Control Methods v2.0" by the NETL Modern Grid Strategy Team.

Sensing and Measurement

Sensing and Measurement "is an essential component of a fully modern power grid. Advanced sensing and measurement technologies will acquire and transform data into information and enhance multiple aspects of power system management. These technologies will evaluate equipment health and the integrity of the grid. They will support frequent meter readings, eliminate billing estimations, and prevent energy theft. They will also help relieve congestion and reduce emissions by enabling consumer choice and demand response and by supporting new control strategies."

Examples of Sensing and Measurement technologies include advanced metering infrastructure, wide area monitoring systems, and outage monitoring and management systems. See "A Systems View of the Modern Grid - Appendix B2: Sensing and Measurement v2.0" by the NETL Modern Grid Strategy Team.

Improved Interfaces and Decision Support

Improved Interfaces and Decision Support are "essential technologies that must be implemented if grid operators and managers are to have the tools and training they will need to operate a modern grid. Improved Interface and Decision Support technologies will convert complex power-system data into information that can be understood by human operators at a glance. Animation, color contouring, virtual reality, and other data display techniques will prevent data overload and help operators identify, analyze, and act on emerging problems."

Examples of Improved Interfaces and Decision Support technologies include DER interface, phasor measurement analysis, and customer gateway. See "A Systems View of the Modern Grid - Appendix B5: Improved Interface and Decision Support v2.0" by the NETL Modern Grid Strategy Team.

Integrated Communications

Of these five key technology areas, the implementation of integrated communications is "a foundational need, required by the other key technologies and essential to the modern power grid. Integrated communications will create a dynamic, interactive mega infrastructure for real-time information and power exchange, allowing users to interact with various intelligent electronic devices in an integrated system sensitive to the various speed requirements (including near real-time) of the interconnected applications."

Examples of Integrated Communication technologies include broadband power line, WiFi, WiMax, and ZigBee. See "A Systems View of the Modern Grid - Appendix B1: Integrated Communications v2.0" by the NETL Modern Grid Strategy Team.