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Smart Grid: Definition, Components, Benefits & Security Threats

Instructor: Erik Rodriguez

Erik has experience working in Cybersecurity and has a Master's of Science in Information Systems.

In this lesson, we will discuss what smart grids are and the components they are comprised of. Additionally, we will review some of the benefits and challenges facing the implementation of smart grids today.

Grid Modernization

Suppose you have installed various smart devices around your home in an effort to make your life easier. Perhaps you installed a smart thermostat which allows you to remotely control the temperature of your home and set certain temperatures on a regular schedule. Additionally, you may have a smart speaker in your kitchen which allows you to play music or ask your digital assistant to look up a certain recipe. This ''smart'' technology adds functional features to outdated and aging household systems, such as the A/C. But can this technology be used in larger scale systems like, say, a city's power grid?

Smart Grid Defined

Just like cars and homes require regular maintenance and tune-ups, our aging power grid requires modernization in order to keep up with our increasing energy demands. As a result, the concept of a smart grid has been proposed as a solution to this issue. A smart grid is a power grid which utilizes technology and control systems in order to operate more effectively. Additionally, a smart grid is able to deliver electricity more reliably and offers consumers greater control over their energy usage.

Components Of A Smart Grid

Smart grids are comprised of various components which work together. Without one or more of these components, a smart grid may not be able to function properly. These components include:

  • Control Systems & Sensors: Sensors and other control systems are hardware devices that contain the ability to monitor a power grid's electric current, voltage, and even other hardware devices.
  • Communication Systems: These are two-way communication systems embedded in a power grid and its hardware which allows its components to communicate with one another.
  • Analytic Software: This is specialized software that is designed to analyze the power grid's processes and the data obtained by the grid's hardware. It can then automate certain tasks based on the grid's current status.
  • IT Operations: This component refers to the IT operations behind the entire smart grid. Ensuring the smart grid contains all the necessary technology to operate is the main purpose of this component.

Smart Grid Benefits & Challenges

As with most technology, there are benefits to the implementation of a smart grid. For example, due to the communication systems in place in a smart grid, the duration and frequency of power outages can potentially be reduced. This is because the analytic software and sensors work together to send out alerts to electrical engineers when an outage is detected, reducing the response time in resolving any issues. Additionally, a smart grid can prevent some outages during peak times by analyzing the energy demand and making any necessary adjustments to the grid with minimal input from humans.

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