The Self-Healing Grid

By: Mario Armanious

The power grid is essential to our life. It is how we get power for our everyday appliances, and ultimately, it is how we power our lives! The Electrical Grid (or Power Grid) is a network of transmission lines that allows for delivering electricity from producers to consumers. So, what is a “self-healing” grid?

Simply put, the self-healing grid can be described as a smarter network that uses sensing, control, and communication technology to allow for real-time troubleshooting for unforeseen events. According to an article by GCN, “some damage to the physical infrastructure is inevitable during severe weather and other disasters, but a smart grid with the ability to anticipate, respond to and isolate damage could mitigate the impact and speed up recovery, said Massoud Amin, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota.” Many even go so far as to argue that the self-healing grid is essential to improving the grid stability which would further improve its reliability. Market Watch also has an article that is consistent with overall sentiment among engineers and those who are helping the smart grid come to life. Market Watch says “Self-healing grids allow a piece of secure two-way information and power flow and enable energy efficiency and self-healing from power disturbance events. Such advantages provided by these grids are likely to augment the global self-healing grid market size.”

Since the grid would be controlled by a collection of communicating computers, corrective actions would be made within minutes or even seconds! One common problem with the grid now is that damage in one area can lead to damages in another. This problem would be eliminated due to the quick activation of circuit breakers to isolate the problem and prevent other lines from being damaged. This use of computers to send corrective actions and open circuit breakers allows for minimal damages from power surges. One problem that this causes, however, is that power is cut off from the areas where the circuit breakers were triggered. It is understood, however, that this is solved when “generation is automatically increased at a second location to supply the increased demand in affected areas.”

Furthermore, Power Technology published an article and concludes that “Experts are now predicting that without major changes, the current grid will struggle to keep up with the need to reduce carbon emissions and incorporate more renewables, such as wind and solar into the grid.” It is thus evident that we need to work on the self-healing grid, and we also need to work on different elements within the network to ensure that it is at its optimal working capability.

Ultimately, it is wise to continue to improve the power grid’s capabilities to allow for more and more reliability in our electrical system. So, what can be our next steps? We can both work on expanding technology and policy. If more people could be informed of the benefits of the smart grid, then there could be a possible push for more implementation of the technologies. As for the technologies, many universities could continue to partner to explore further. Moreover, the utility companies such as Xcel or regulators such as MISO can continue to develop better and better sensing and control capabilities as well as working to improve the communications technologies.

Edited for spelling, grammar, and clarity.


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