So much materials science research and news revolves around energy and its generation, storage and efficient use. It’s easy to overlook materials issues relating to the delivery of electricity, especially the “smart grid.”
Steve Bossart of DOE’s NETL will be giving an invited talk on materials for the smart grid at the Materials Challenges in Alternative and Renewable Energy meeting Feb. 26-March 1, 2012 in Clearwater, Fla.
Based on the abstract of his talk, materials research for the smart grid falls into two categories: Using electricity better and managing electricity delivery better. The latter include devices like solid-state circuit breakers, relays and switches, solid-state transformers, current limiters, static VAR compensators, high-voltage direct converters and AC/DC inverters.
Bossart explains the smart grid in a 2009 interview with Joe Culver, which is posted on the NETL website. The video is a little long, almost 18 minutes, but Bossart provides a clear description of what a smart grid is, how a smart grid improves on the current power delivery system, the business case for smart grid power delivery and more. His descriptions of an intricate infrastructure system are well organized and easy to follow.
He begins by defining a smart grid, “We tend to think of the smart grid in terms of its functionality instead of a specific group of technologies. A specific group of technologies limits you in terms of what you can do with a smart grid.” He goes on to describe seven functionalities of a smart grid. A smart grid, he says,
1. Enables consumer participation in the grid,
2. Accommodates all kinds of storage and generation options in a plug-and-play mode,
3. Enables new products, services and markets,
4. Provides power economy needs of a digital society,
5. Optimizes assets already on the grid system and operates them more efficiently,
6. Anticipates and responds to disturbances,
7. Has operation resiliency to attack and natural disasters.
Bossart develops each of these points (and others in the video) with enough detail to educate the viewer without wandering too far into technical specifics.
The MCARE meeting is organized into 11 symposia, including one on the electric grid. Organizers are putting the program together now, and it should be available by Dec. 14, 2011. The other symposia are Batteries and Energy Storage, Biomass, Geothermal, Hydrogen, Hydropower, Materials Availability for Alternative Energy, Nanocomposites and Nanomaterials for Energy, Nuclear, Solar Power and Wind.
Abstracts for the six plenary talks are available on the website, as is the list of invited speakers for the symposia.
Here is the full abstract of Bossart’s invited talk:
TITLE: Materials Research for Smart Grid Applications
ABSTRACT: Our nation is transitioning to a Smart Grid, which can sense and more optimally control the transmission, distribution, and delivery of electric power. The control of the electric power system is becoming more challenging with the addition of distributed renewable power sources, energy storage systems, electric vehicle charging, building and home energy management systems, smart appliances and devices capable of demand response, and other technologies. These assets coupled with a smarter grid can provide many benefits including reducing peak demand and electricity consumption; better efficiency and reliability in distribution network, remote meter reading, improved outage management, automated feeder reconfiguration, improved maintenance by monitoring equipment health, and providing ancillary services to enhance grid stability and reliability. Materials research can enhance many applications made possible by smart grid. Materials research can result in reduced cost, increases in operating voltage and current, faster switching and sensing speed, better thermal management, greater efficiency, better protection, and longer life for many devices including solid-state circuit breakers, relays and switches, solid-state transformers, current limiters, static VAR compensators, high-voltage direct converters, and AC/DC inverters.