Smart Grid

One of the things that we hear quite a lot when people talk about the future of energy supply in this country is the need for a ‘smart grid’ which will enable use to be made of a range of energy sources at different times. The theory goes that this will work perfectly with renewable energy. Let’s say on a given day it is very windy in Scotland and the windfarms are all producing nicely. With a smart grid, we can shut down all those nasty coal burning power stations and let the wind power us for a while and then when it dies back down, crank them back up again. But hang on, its now sunny down in the south of England, let’s take all the lovely electricity from those solar farms and use that instead! Keep the coal for another day when the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow.

You may be surprised to hear that this type of operation is firmly established in Britain and has been for some time. There is an HQ somewhere in Great Britain (its a secret location-I assume because of potential terrorist threats) that analyses where load is coming from and responding to it accordingly. They even keep a copy of Radio Times to hand for those infamous load spikes once Corrie or Easties has finished. They also keep a close eye on the weather forecast for the exact reasons that I’ve suggested above. This seems to be a rare example where we are actually ahead of our time and not shouting from the rooftops about it.

So you may ask, “Why are we not making more of this and putting loads more industrial scale renewable energy systems on the grid?” Well, its happening, at a faster pace than ever before. But it is worth putting a little note of caution. As you know, I am a convinced renewable energy guy and have thrown my lot in with this, but I would like to exporess a note of sympathy with my esteemed associated from the nation’s DNOs. What’s a DNO? They are Distribution Network Operators and they are responsible for the supply of your electricity and maintaining the mains network from which this comes. They are the people responsible for deciding what should and shouldn’t be allowed to put electricity onto the grid. They are cautious and rightly so. If electricity generation sources are connected up willy-nilly it will result in black-outs, unsustainable supply and probably a few deaths by electrocution. Electricity is not something that anyone should be playing with.

I have just completed my training for testing SSEG (Small Scale Electricity Generation) under g59/2-1 electrical requirements. I mention it because I thought I knew a fair bit about electricity distribution but I now realise there is a lot I don’t know-the DNOs have a big responsibility. However, I hope that BEC and other construction companies will be able to work closely with the DNOs to make the smart grid even smarter.