Meeting greenhouse gas emissions goals needs many technologies. And IoT is one of them. Read in this article how IoT can help better manage the electrical power grid and realize net zero emissions.
About 25% of the CO2 that the world puts into the air every year results from electricity production. No surprise then that there are many initiatives for carbon reduction and net zero emissions that focus on this area. Electricity production from renewable sources is increasing. And traditional power plants are shutting down or being phased out. This change affects the dynamics of the electrical power grid. Demand patterns for electricity are changing at the same time, driven by the recharging of electric vehicles. This new demand changes the dynamics of the grid even further. Managing the operation, stability, and reliability of electrical power grids is emerging as one of the significant challenges of the energy transitions that are taking place today.
Managing production rates
In the past, the production of electricity delivered to the grid was easy to track, as large power plants tend to run at stable and predictable production rates, and daily demand repeated itself in mostly the same pattern. Coordination between these power plants to manage production rates and match demand involves routine with some communication between the operations teams. The electricity production from renewables, on the other hand, is spread over many locations, in some cases as granular as individual homes that deliver their excess electricity to the network. Their electricity production rates fluctuate, often related to weather conditions. As their share of electricity production grows, managing the electrical power grid becomes ever more challenging.
Supply and demand
Information about supply and demand is key for maintaining a stable and reliable power grid. This information needs to come from individual producers and electricity users, like homes or charging stations of vehicles. IoT delivers this information – it connects the control systems, sensors, meters, and other devices that contain relevant data to the cloud. With this information, you can match electricity supply and demand by taking actions where needed. In case the electricity production is low, you could reduce the rate with which vehicles are charged through remote control or shut off users temporarily. For example, processes that are not time-critical and agree to flexibility for lower electricity rates. If electricity production is high, you can speed up battery recharging or recharge the buffer capacity.
This field is changing rapidly, with new concepts for managing and maintaining stable piloted and implemented operations. These are concepts like microgrids, electricity grids limited to small areas like a neighborhood of campus. These grids can operate while connected to the main power grid or in stand-alone mode to reduce its dependencies if the main grid is experiencing problems. Keeping control over a microgrid is easier than managing an entire statewide power grid.
Data collection and remote control systems
In almost every case, IoT is an enabler and can help with reaching net zero emission targets. As this electrical power ecosystem consists of many different devices and sub-systems and was created over decades, there is a wide range of protocols and data types. The IoT solutions, therefore, need to be flexible and prepared to be easily connected and configured. Security of these systems is key as well. Adding connectivity to the elements of the power grid adds new risks. And privacy is also an issue. Standardization is another important factor, as many different entities add IoT elements, and these elements need to be able to connect and share data. Much of the attention in energy transitions have been on new electricity generation technologies and electrical energy storage. However, data collection and remote control systems needed for managing the changing dynamics that result from these transitions are also important topics.
Ready-to-go solution BACE
BACE IoT is an IoT building block that was specifically developed for applications like these. The BACE module can connect to many different types of energy systems, from individual sensors to large control systems. It supports common data protocols, including several wireless protocols, and can retrieve data from the systems to which it connects or send data to them. BACE is fully integrated with the Azure cloud and delivers the data through a RESTful API. It delivers this data immediately after the BACE module has been installed and does not need further development of customization.