A smart grid is a system that facilitates suppliers and consumers in acquiring real-time energy information that they may require, and utilise this information to enable supply, storage, consumption, and transaction of electric energy in specific amounts at the right time. The electrical industry is undoubtedly considered to be one of the most conservative in regards to enhancing technology such as including high voltage and medium voltage switchgear.
Why is that true? Firstly, technological innovation appears about every decade or so, but switchgear can last as long as 40 years, presenting itself as a viable form of architecture for orthodox and centralised power transmission and distribution (T&D) networks. Also, the T&D operators need stability which is why they are often hesitant to employ new technologies. Maintenance and repair of such long-life devices are easier for service crews if there is a minimum change in technology.
However, to reap the benefits of today’s smart grid capabilities, the electrical industry must establish a new understanding of switchgear. Smart grid-era switchgear needs to be more “digitally intelligent,” flexible, compact, and able to endure harsh environments.
Smart grids have two main objectives:
- Optimise the balance between demand and supply of energy
- Integrate more distributed and renewable energies
Meeting these objectives means using digital technology that enables two-way communication, between the utility and its customers; and between devices along the transmission and distribution network and the network operations centre. Nevertheless, much of today’s electrical support, including switchgear, permits only a simple one-way flow of communication valid for centralised energy production.
While the principles of switchgear remain fundamentally the same, the technology is evolving as well as the way to optimise it for the smart grid. Basic characteristics of smart grid technology are:
- Smart grids incorporate more circuit breakers in the network (replacing manual switches).
- Implementing digital technology for greater remote control and monitoring becomes vital.
- Low-consumption sensors and digital meters intensify control and monitoring.
- Modular architecture is essential.
As smart grids emerge, digital intelligence will empower utilities to view, measure, and control the functions along the network. Remote control, which relies on digital intelligence, can optimise maintenance and evade costly manned field service visits.
With increased renewable and distributed energy sources being introduced into smart grids, monitoring and measurement will become vital to balance supply and demand.
The medium voltage switchgear market is expected to present a steadfast opportunity for new players in the coming years due to the swiftly growing demand for electrification in developing countries. Reputed eminent players are likely to retain a strong dominance in the international medium voltage switchgear market in the coming years. Brands like #SchneiderElectric have held a strong foothold in the domains of energy management, protection, and IoT automation. #LifeIsOn