The advanced smart grid

Book cover

By Jonathan Spencer Jones

In online forums and at events one frequently encounters the question: “What is smart grid?” What better place to start then, than the new book “The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability,” by Andres Carvallo and John Cooper.

That the subject is complex and confusing is a given – and that is on a good day, according to Carvallo, long a smart grid visionary who played a key role in developing the U.S.’s first smart grid at Austin Energy, and Cooper, who worked as a consultant on the project, as they seek to distil their experiences and knowledge gained over the past decade into an overview and vision of what they describe as the inevitable upgrading and evolution of the grid.

The first thing to understand is the terminology and Carvallo and Cooper distinguish between the first generation Smart Grid 1.0, which starts with an application such as advanced metering; the second generation or advanced smart grid, Smart Grid 2.0, which starts with a deliberate IP-based architecture; and finally the future Smart Grid 3.0, which can also be seen as a (larger) smart community or smart city.

The starting point for the book is the “inevitable emergence” of smart grid, the rationale for an advanced grid, and the “smart convergences” – the ongoing analog-to-digital transition and advances in telecommunications and networking – that are making these possible. The authors then move into a detailed discussion of the development of the Austin Energy (Smart Grid 1.0) and Pecan Street (Smart Grid 2.0) projects, before giving an overview of the current perspective in the U.S. and ending up with a visionary overview of Smart Grid 3.0.

As the authors point out in the case of Austin Energy’s smart grid project – and as certain utilities in the U.S. have been finding out the hard way – it is not always easy being a visionary. But it is the visionaries who ultimately enable us to advance as a society. And with the many challenges facing society today, the future vision is worthy indeed. “We believe,” write Carvallo and Cooper, “it is a golden age of abundance, where we manage what we have with greater respect for limits and boundaries, but we also enjoy what we have much more, thanks to sustainable networks that eliminate or minimize waste and encourage easy, even effortless transactions.”

This is a book with something for everyone with an interest in smart grid and one certainly doesn’t need to be an engineer to appreciate it, though clearly the main readership will be professionals involved in some way in the industry. With an easy and at times chatty style the authors penetrate the complexities to give insight and understanding, and bring to life a subject that sooner or later will touch every one of us, whether as a utility worker involved hands-on or as a consumer recipient.

Oh, and if you enjoy the format, go, as I did, for the e-Book version. The reader is Adobe Digital Editions, which is a free download and offers a comfortable and easy to use reading experience.

The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability by Andres Carvallo and John Cooper. 266 pages. Published by Artech House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-60807-127-2 (print), 978-1-60807-128-9 (E-Book).