The current electrical grid is large and complex, moving electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. Current technology has not changed much since the mid-20th Century. Large, steady amounts of power move from centralized generating stations to substations that feed power into local distribution grids.
Unfortunately, when power comes from varying sources and fluctuates due to renewable energy intermittency, such as clouds forming over solar panels, the system struggles. It’s also not that great at handling the increasing amount of power being generated on the distribution end, such as rooftop solar. And, of course, the current grid is vulnerable to massive outages caused by a disruption at a single point of failure.
So, what’s the solution? A few companies are trying to make the power grid able to rout power around damage the way the internet routes information around a disabled hub. In order to accomplish this they are working with the utility companies to place digital control systems throughout the grid network. They are trying to take the kind of technology we use every day and put it to work on our power grid.
The benefits of digital controls are a more stable power grid that regulates voltage efficiently. It’s estimated this will save as much as 3,000 megawatts of power just on the California grid. This smart grid will easily incorporate rooftop solar and deal with the intermittent nature of solar and other renewable forms of energy.