Smart grids and virtual power plants

Smart grids

A smart grid is a modernized electrical grid that uses analog or digital information and communications technology to gather and act on information – such as information about the behaviours of suppliers and consumers – in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity. Electronic power conditioning and control of the production and distribution of electricity are important aspects of the smart grid. Next-generation transmission and distribution infrastructure will be better able to handle possible bidirectional energy flows, allowing for distributed generation such as from photovoltaic panels on building roofs, but also the use of fuel cells, charging to/from the batteries of electric cars, wind turbines, pumped hydroelectric power, and other sources.

Virtual power plants

A virtual power plant is a system that integrates several types of power sources, (such as microCHP, wind-turbines, small hydro, photovoltaics, backup gensets, batteries etc.) so as to give a reliable overall power supply. The sources are often a cluster of distributed generation systems, and are often orchestrated by a central authority. The concerted operational mode delivers extra benefits such as the ability to deliver peak load electricity or load-aware power generation at short notice. Such a VPP can replace a conventional power plant while providing higher efficiency and more flexibility. More flexibility allows the system to react better to fluctuations.