In the traditional energy grid, electricity is generated by power plants and moved through a system known as the power distribution grid to homes and businesses. This power grid is in need of significant upgrade, as much of it was designed and implemented 120 years ago (AERTC).
Energy demand has grown rapidly and is causing a strain on the system. This leads to sudden blackouts when demand is so high it cannot be met. However, by utilizing modern sensors and machine learning methods, it can evolve into a Smart Grid System that drastically improves performance and efficiency.
The Traditional Energy Grid
Electricity cannot be stored, it must be used as it is generated. Electricity is delivered by power lines to consumers and businesses, but problems occur as power usage varies during the day and at different periods of the year (EIA). For example, in a residential setting, significantly more power is utilized early in the morning when people are preparing to leave for work (running showers, air/heat systems and using kitchen appliances). The same situation occurs during the evening, as residents return home. Despite this, electricity is constantly being generated but with reduced usage during the middle of the day, needlessly wasting it. More power is also consumed during summer and winter months, keeping homes either cool or warm depending on the season.
High energy demands at various points in the day are referred to as the peak load. Utility providers have to be able to support that peak demand, while still providing continuous power throughout the day. This balance is difficult to maintain and keeps costs high for both suppliers and consumers.
It is also apparent that traditional energy grids are a significant impediment to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and cleaning our air. In a white paper produced by the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, it is explained that “electricity generation is the largest contributor of GHG emissions. In 2006 it contributed 33 percent to the total GHG emissions.” Clearly this isn’t a clean process, or a smart one. The grid we are still using today was built for large power plants generating electricity through traditional fossil fuels such as coal and gas. It is imperative that we move beyond these fossil fuels to greener and more efficient technologies.
The Smart Grid
The smart energy grid is a much more efficient and greener method of generating energy. We now have the technology to build electricity grids that “reduce harmful pollution, keep the lights on when storms strike, and benefit customers, utilities and electricity generators alike.” This system utilizes established energy generation methods and infuses them with more recent renewable sources, such as solar and wind. The smart grid is able to connect areas of significant renewable energy sources to areas of high demand, significantly reducing the risk of blackouts.
This is where Fathym comes in.
Fathym works with renewable energy providers to generate real-time, hyper-local information on energy demand and usage. Fathym utilizes its WeatherCloud sensors and forecasting engine to monitor solar and wind conditions, enabling energy providers to make accurate predictions on the best type of energy source to meet demand at any time.
WeatherCloud can also predict energy needs of consumers based on forecasted weather conditions. When it’s cold, consumers will use energy to heat their homes, while hot days will lead to increased use of air conditioners. The Fathym Framework unifies all of this weather and energy data, and applies machine algorithms to increase energy grid efficiency and ensure reliability.