A neighbor’s rooftop solar panel can feed electricity back to the grid when it’s capturing more energy than its owner needs, meaning a home becomes an energy generator in addition to an energy consumer. An electric vehicle owner charges her car overnight during what used to be considered non-peak hours — but these hours could easily become energy intensive if more drivers purchase plug-in vehicles and charge at the same time. Both are technologies with potential to reduce carbon emissions and improve a consumer’s impact on the environment, and yet both also present new challenges to electric utilities.
Quite simply, never before has the energy grid been so complex.
Smart meters are helping to make sense of this, providing electric utilities with information about energy use as often as several times per hour, rather than the historical monthly reading. These meters allow utilities to keep a keener eye on demand, more quickly identify outages and better balance their energy supplies. Smart meters may eventually allow residents and businesses to more efficiently oversee their energy use, as their appliances and HVAC systems incorporate the same technology, indicating where they may be wasting electricity. The system could even reward customers who, for instance, run a dishwasher during non-peak times or adjust their thermostat when availability is strained.
This is the essence of the smart grid — two-way communication between users, producers and transmitters of energy that allow us to better manage and perhaps even reduce our energy consumption. So much data, though, can create confusion instead of actionable information if it is not properly managed.
This week, we announced the Dell Smart Grid Data Management solution: a bundle of servers, storage, networking, high-performance computing and security services to manage this data and provide actionable results in real time. Developed in collaboration with industry-leading software firm OSIsoft, the solution will allow utilities to take full advantage of smart grid technologies — conserving resources and reducing costs.
We are currently testing this system with a large electric utility. With the help of Dell and OSIsoft, this utility already has identified performance bottlenecks in its existing system and tested new technology to help alleviate them. And the solution is designed to scale, meaning that as a company’s needs change and grow, so can its bundle of hardware, software and services.
Global population growth will continue to stress finite natural resources. Technologies such as smart grids can help use these resources in a wiser and more informed manner — improving productivity and efficiency.
To learn more, visit www.dell.com/energy.