TR+Oct+2009+-+Intelligent+Electricity

TR+Oct+2009+-+Intelligent+Electricity - BRIEFING...

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BRIEFING: ELECTRICITY 92 T he popular impression of the U.S. elec- tricity grid, often promoted by politi- cians and industry, is that it is maxed out, constantly on the verge of overload. In fact, the system is grossly oversized, built to handle extreme power demands that occur for only a few hours on the hottest days of the year. In New York City, peak demand is about 35,000 megawatts of electric- ity. Most of the time, the city’s demand is about 9,000 megawatts less —equivalent to the output of about nine nuclear power plants. To cope with minute-by-minute changes in electricity supply and demand, grid operators must maintain large reserves of generation and transmission capacity. Reducing the need for these reserves will mean that fewer power plants have to be built to keep up with increases in demand for electricity, saving $100 billion in construction costs and curbing future greenhouse-gas emissions. Emissions can also be reduced by replacing fossil-fuel plants with zero-emission technologies, such as solar and wind farms. In the United States, achieving these goals will require tackling an antiquated transmission system. Half of the grid is more than 40 years old. Most of the grid is operated manually and without any real- time knowledge of what’s going on in the eld. If one of the aging transformers fails, the local utility may not even know until a customer calls to complain. Such slow responses have already led to cascading power failures, such as one that blacked out 45 million people in the northeastern United States in 2003. The solution is to construct a network of sensors and controls that will give a detailed picture of the state of the grid in real time and allow rapid reactions to vari- ations in electricity supply and demand—a so-called smart grid. These innovations will reduce the amount of excess capac- ity that grid operators require and make it easier to integrate renewable sources of energy. [ Sensors on transmission lines will determine how much power the lines can carry, something that varies with tempera- ture. (For now, operators rely on conserva-
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2011 for the course MGT 3743 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '10 term at Georgia Tech.

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TR+Oct+2009+-+Intelligent+Electricity - BRIEFING...

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