Wireless Powers Smart Grids

CTIA_TWA_K_BIGSustainability Benefits, Lower Costs 

No one’s home and your air conditioner thinks it shouldn’t have to work so hard. Your oven’s pretty sure you’re not going to use it until dinner time so it wants to go to sleep. And when the power goes out in your neighborhood, the utility crew doesn’t have to play an educated guessing game of the location of the problem. Wireless smart grids are making all of these and other energy, time, and cost saving scenarios possible, vastly improving the efficiency and capability of power transmission, and providing enhanced consumer and environmental benefits.

Learn about Duke Energy’s Wireless Smart Grid

Wireless communication is at the center of the smart grid system, connecting users to their utility and the distribution networks, and supplying power companies with critically important real-time data. That capability allows them to make more timely and effective decisions that ultimately result in more sustainable operations.

The possible environmental and cost savings benefits of smart grid technology are impressive. According to a report compiled by the environmental consultancy group, BSR, smart grid systems have the potential to save about 360 million metric tons (MT) of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. by 2020. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of about 70 million passenger vehicles or 30 million homes. BSR also reported a savings of between $15 billion and $35 billion due to smart grid deployments.

Wireless communications nodes are the critical links of the smart grid systems, gathering and processing streams of data from a variety of sources. The nodes connect smart appliances in homes with smart meters and the grid, and can provide consumers with information about which appliances are using energy and when and the ability to control them from anywhere, at anytime.

The wireless nodes are also in synch with line sensors, which detect how much power is flowing through the system at any given time, and then transmits that information to a central operations center. The sensors also indicate precisely where outages exist, information the nodes immediately transmit back to the utility hub, while simultaneously triggering technical work-arounds to find alternative routing for power transmission.

Many utilities such as Duke Energy (featured in the video segment on this page) are collaborating with wireless network service providers, rather than building their own costly, proprietary private networks and taking on the vast array of challenges that come with that monumental task. David Masters, Manager, Technology Development for Duke, explained its decision to use an existing public wireless network for its smart grid by saying “Duke Energy has no desire to be in the communications business. We need to harness already existing expertise and capabilities that the wireless networks provide in designing, building, and maintaining the communications.”

Mobile technology is at the heart of a new way in generating, transmitting, and using power and next week’s commemoration of Earth Day will bring acute focus on such invaluable systems to enhance sustainability. It’s an appropriate time to shine the light on public policy that will encourage even more innovation in this critical area, including the allocation of additional and essential spectrum to support wireless smart grids all over the country and create innumerable savings to consumers, utilities, and the planet.


EconomyWireless is Limitless

Watch more segments highlighting the benefits of wireless communication, on topics such as urban parking, environmental monitoring, smart water management and more.