Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Thursday, February 27, 2020
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An Introduction to Smart Grid Systems 

Modernized electrical grids, or smart grids, are quickly moving from a futuristic notion to infrastructure we use every day. But as more utilities hop aboard the smart grid train, the more challenges the industry is facing as it attempts to rebuild the infrastructure we’ve grown accustomed to.

Smart grid pioneer Subramanian “Mani” Vadari has been a long-time advocate for smart grids and their ability to change the traditional role of system operator, but with all of the new systems that smart grids make possible come unique challenges, he says.

In an article in Smart Grid News, Vadari explains that distribution previously fell in the domain of customer or field operations, with a focus on trouble-call management. But with new sensors, SCADA and programs for measuring demand response and time-of-use rates, he says that distribution operations are having to become a more formal set of operational functions that require their own unique systems.

First among those systems is meter data management (MDMS), which stores and controls the data that metering systems deliver. The data can be broken down into either usage data or events recorded in advanced metering infrastructure or automatic meter reading systems.

“An MDMS will typically import the data, then validate, cleanse and process it before making it available for billing and analysis. They integrate with existing enterprise applications and help to streamline utility business processes,” Vadari explains. “Benefits are seen in billing, customer service, outage management and analysis of utility operations.”

Next is the outage management system (OMS), which collects and analyzes calls to determine probably device failures and outage locations for utilities that depend on customers to report outages.

Geographic information systems (GIS) capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present data that comes from cartography, statistical analysis and databases surrounding geographical data. Its ability to store and correlate dissimilar data types is essential to the GIS’ function, and make it especially important for distribution systems, Vadari says.

A distribution management system (DMS) is a base SCADA systems with additional planning and operations functions for the utility’s sub-transmission and distribution feeder systems. According to Vadari, DMS applications are particularly data intensive due to the power system elements and spatial information included in its displays, analyses and databases.

Last are distributed energy management sysetms (DEMS), which are becoming more popular to bridge the gap between distribution tap-end transformer and the customer. While Vadari says it “does not need to perform the full-suite of power systems applications,” it does have a combination of SCADA interfaces to support specific applications. The two major DEMS applications are demand response management and distributed renewables management.

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