Unveiling the Technology Behind Modern Electric Companies

Monday, August 21, 2023


The modern electric industry relies on a complex system to deliver power to businesses and homes.

New technologies are changing the way modern electric companies operate. Smart meters, energy storage, and other systems are helping them reduce costs by providing non-wires solutions.

Digital Twins

A digital twin is a near real-time digitized replica of an object or process. This virtual clone bridges the physical and digital realms and can help organizations optimize business performance by leveraging live data to make informed decisions. This technology can be applied across manufacturing, energy and utilities, and aerospace and defense industries.

Using this software, engineers can perform tests, assessments, and analysis work on physical products without physically touching them. This can reduce a significant amount of time spent on product development and production and save companies from investing in expensive equipment that can be damaged during these operations.

The best digital twin platform offers a single source of truth, ensuring an organization’s physical and virtual assets are in the same state. It also provides an open API that can be used to integrate into other systems. Finally, the platform allows organizations to create visualizations, dashboards, and in-depth analyses based on live data from the digital twin.

The digital twin concept can be applied to almost any object or system. Some examples include aircraft engines, trains, cargo ships, and offshore oil platforms. However, the concept is most suited to manufacturing processes and equipment. This is because of the ability to perform more advanced simulations that aren’t possible in the real world.

Energy Storage

The electric power grid operates based on a delicate balance of electricity supply (generation) and demand. Energy storage in an electric company in Dallas allows energy to be stored during periods of high production or low demand and then transferred back into the grid at critical times to meet peak demands or provide backup. Energy storage can improve electric grid reliability, reduce or defer the need for new power lines to increase capacity and cost, and add more renewable resources.

Energy storage systems can store energy on various timescales from seconds to hours. For example, pumped hydro and compressed air storage technologies can store energy over long durations. Batteries and flywheels, on the other hand, can respond quickly to electricity demand fluctuations by delivering electricity on second-to-second timescales to help maintain the voltage and frequency of the electric power grid.

Energy storage is a versatile technology that can replace existing fossil fuel peaker plants or support a shift to cleaner, renewable sources of power and electrified transportation. Today, ESSs are installed across the country as large utility-scale projects to help manage energy demands and stabilize the grid; and as customer-sited “behind the meter” systems that can reduce demand charges and manage electricity costs. The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy is working to develop longer-duration battery storage systems that can store power for 10+ hours, enabling greater integration of renewables into the grid.

Smart Meters

In traditional models, meters are read manually by hired people who visit customers’ premises monthly or quarterly. These readings are then used to produce electricity, water, or gas bills. Smart meters allow for more accuracy and can be paired with energy management systems to control devices like smart thermostats to maximize efficiency and savings.

Meters also connect to power companies’ networks, allowing two-way communication between the device and the utility. This can include time-based pricing information, demand response actions, and remote service disconnects. Smart meters can detect outages much faster than traditional meters, enabling crews to be dispatched sooner to fix problems.

Depending on the implementation plan, smart meters can be used to monitor household consumption in close to real-time through an in-home display device. This allows the customer to make changes instantaneously in response to changing prices or reliability events – for example, delaying the use of a high-energy appliance or shutting it off altogether.

Smart meters may be wireless, using cellular communications, Wi-Fi (readily available), low power long-range wireless, wireless mesh networks, and a combination of these technologies to communicate with the grid. Some utilities offer an opt-out program for those who would prefer not to participate in a smart meter program, though this isn’t common in all states and localities.

Smart Grid

The smart grid is a system of technologies that allows for systematic communication between suppliers (their energy price) and consumers (their willingness to pay). The result is that only the critical loads need to pay peak electricity prices, while consumers can be more strategic when using their electricity. The smart grid also allows for the more effective use of existing power plants and the grid network, enabling generators to sell energy strategically for maximum profit.

The term “smart grid” has evolved into various devices, communications control infrastructure, and other innovations. This includes smart metering, power system automation, sensing along transmission lines, microgeneration whereby organizations and more extensive facilities can generate electricity on top of prosumers, better storage capabilities, ways to enhance security, and alternative transmission methods that save on precious metals.

The smart grid also adds resiliency to the power supply by allowing local community members to keep their health centers, police departments, and traffic lights up during emergencies. Using customer-owned power generators to produce energy on the grid, the smart grid can ensure that essential services like public safety are maintained, and everyone has access to the necessary resources. It can also help ease the stress on the grid during times of high demand by encouraging consumers to reduce their electricity usage for short periods through new technologies and motivating mechanisms such as real-time pricing.

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