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The Role of Smart Meters in the Smart Grid




June 16, 2011 - Power & Communication

This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor - Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is the role of meters in the Smart Grid.

Today's smart meters are critical components in an effective energy-management and power-monitoring program. Many meters incorporate technology specifically designed to interface with the Smart Grid via an energy management system. Many facilities have installed meters on major switchboards or critical equipment and can use information the meters gather to determine when periods of peak demand are imminent or to monitor power quality. But to be able to truly impact demand, a valuable use of capital might be a more significant investment in smart metering.

For example, a facility that meters nearly every major piece of mechanical equipment and electrical feeder will have a great deal of information available when managers need to make decisions on load shedding. If a facility has agreements in place with the utility to reduce loads during periods of peak energy use, being able to closely match the load it sheds to utility requirements might lessen the impact of this load adjustment.

Using a control scheme that can shed the load at each metered point, as well as historical and trending data gathered via the meters over time, a manager can make intelligent, real-time decisions as to load shedding. At the same time, the experience gained during these periods will help a manager facilitate improvements related to energy efficiency: The systems and equipment that have the smallest impact on a facility in relation to the amounts of energy they use are prime targets for improved efficiency.

Intelligent monitoring points in a building management system are not always meters. Many buildings feature smart thermostats or smart appliances, which provide data into, and can be controlled by an energy-monitoring system.

One challenge managers face when multiplying the amount of power metering and monitoring points is an overload of information. Fortunately, a number of companies are developing software solutions that automate building energy control to assist managers. These systems reduce large amounts of data into easily understood graphical interfaces.

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