Many electric distribution utilities are investing in distribution automation applications as part of their grid modernization strategies. Distribution Automation applications play a critical role in improving reliability, efficiency, asset utilization and performance of the power delivery system and can be broadly classified into 4 major categories Routine Operational Efficiency, Management of Peak Loads, Prediction of Equipment Failure, and System Restoration after Failure Occurs.
The goal of Distribution Automation is real-time adjustment to changing loads, generation, and failure conditions of the distribution system, usually without operator intervention. This necessitates control of field devices, which implies enough information technology (IT) development to enable automated decision making in the field and relaying of critical information to the utility control center. The IT infrastructure includes real-time data acquisition and communication with utility databases and other automated systems. Accurate modeling of distribution operations supports optimal decision making at the control center and in the field. Automated control of devices in distribution systems is closed-loop control of switching devices, voltage controllers, and capacitors based on recommendations of the distribution optimization algorithms.
Distribution automation is also becoming increasingly critical to enable the Utilities to support the following scenarios as well:
- Distributed generation is increasingly important in power grids around the world. This generation can help to support local power grids in the presence of blackouts, and ease the load on long-distance transmission lines. Usually, utility control centers are unable to manage distributed generators directly, and this may be a valuable capability in the future.
- Industrial and residential loads are increasingly controlled through demand-response. For example, during periods of peak electrical demand in the summer, the utility control centers may be able to raise the thermostats of houses enrolled in a load reduction program, to temporarily decrease electrical demand from a large number of customers without significantly affecting their comfort. Customers are usually compensated for their participation in such programs.
- To enable demand side management, where homes, businesses, and even electric vehicles may be able to receive real-time pricing (RTP) signals from their distribution companies and dynamically adjust their own energy consumption profiles to minimize costs. This would also preserve customer autonomy and mitigate privacy issues.
Cellular machine-to-machine (M2M) communications play a critical role in the adoption and growth of distribution automation applications. Cellular M2M provides a reliable, highly available and cost-effective network solution, enabling utilities to effectively support these distribution automation applications.
Machine-to-machine cellular connectivity is one of the best technology options available today for distribution automation applications. With advancements in technology from 2G, 3G to LTE, cellular connectivity is available everywhere, even in hard-to-reach areas. In addition to unmatched geographical reach, there are many other advantages to using cellular connectivity for DA applications, including cost savings, improved load balancing, flexible pricing, and remote management.
Aeris and General Electric recently co-hosted a webinar to discuss the major trends in the DA space, problems utility customers are facing today and how a hybrid network solution with cellular M2M connectivity can solve those problems for customers. Watch a recording of the webinar here.
Aeris is a pioneer and leader in M2M technology, offering connectivity support for a variety of networks, including GSM and CDMA. It owns and operates the only cellular network designed exclusively for machines and has been a leader and pioneer, shaping and driving industry innovation and standards in M2M communications.