Sensors help create a greener grid

If you want to see the green power revolution at work in America, look up at the power lines.

If you spot a little box about the size of a tennis shoe clamped onto one of the wires, you’re looking at something that’s bringing in a whole new era in energy. It’s called a sensor, a container of electronics that collects and sends out information about the wire it’s on, from the voltage inside to the temperature on the outside.

Sensors are starting to appear all over the nation’s electric grid, and they are “changing the way we create, transmit and use electricity,” says Venkat Banunarayanan, senior director of integrated grid technologies for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

“You install those sensors at different points on the grid and get an accurate picture of how the grid is performing,” he says. “The more sensors and real-time information you can get back to the grid operators, the better they can identify and address any problems.”

Sensors also allow utilities to adjust operations in response to the growing popularity of electric vehicles and the on-again, off-again nature of the electricity produced by wind and solar farms. With these changes to the power infrastructure, utilities need the ability to look at grid performance and plan accordingly throughout every hour of the day and night.

For all its cyber-age sophistication, Banunarayanan sees the greener grid as just another stage in the development of electric utilities.

“The grid is changing; however, the basic function of the grid is not,” he says. “The grid exists to supply cost-effective, reliable and safe power. It’s just changing to give consumers more options.”

Source: Paul Wesslund, NRECA

Photo Credit: Aclara