The potential of smart grids has been touted nearly everywhere as a realistic solution to power grid strain. But with adoption by utilities happening slower than expected, we investigate which direction the technology involved needs to take to unlock its full potential and revolutionise our electric grids.

In this issue we explore what has been achieved so far, looking at successful pilot projects that are demonstrating that smart grid cities can already work using existing technology. We also investigate if going digital will open up the grid to new cyber threats and find out which technologies are suited best to building up the robust data communications networks that will make smart grids possible.

We also explore related technologies that are emerging in the age of the smart grid, looking at a new generation of batteries for large-scale power storage, as well as various applications of distributed generation, which could help to reduce the dependence on centralised power sources.

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Sizing Up Smart Grids

The potential of smart grids has been touted nearly everywhere as a realistic solution to power grid strain, but adoption by utilities has not been as widespread as one would imagine. We examine whether the benefits fit the costs.
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Proof of Concept

A groundbreaking experiment in The Netherlands has provided strong evidential support for the smart grid concept applied to a network of domestic consumers.
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Taking Charge of Cybersecurity

Smart grids hold the potential to revolutionise power distribution, but going digital opens the transmission system up to new risks. We explore the emerging cyber frontier of energy infrastructure to assess the threat posed by hacking and other cyber attacks.
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Distributing the Load

Local small-scale power generation, when combined with smart technology, could make the grid more reliable and flexible. We look at some of the distributed generation projects aiming to reduce the dependence on centralised power sources.
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Smart Storage

With many power grids operating under the burden of aging systems, can smart grid technology paper over the cracks? We investigate how one particular approach to smart metering could improve the efficiency of maintenance and help to ease the pressure off aging infrastructure while keeping the costs low for utilities.
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Connect to the Future

For smart grids to become a reality, robust data systems are needed that can transmit information two ways in real-time. Eugen mayer of power plus communications looks at the options for smart communications networks.
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Next Issue: Optimisation & Efficiency

Improving the efficiency of power plants is a major issue for utilities, especially in coal and gas fuelled generation. Next month we look at upgrades and how the implementation of new technology can help to boost the performance of ageing plants.

Automation is taking the industry by storm as new technologies emerge to increase efficiency. We profile new automation options, including the latest web-based collaborative asset management software, and look at remote diagnostics to find out from experts how plant performance monitoring can help to detect errors almost before they happen.

With the first large stationary gas engine to incorporate two-stage turbo-charging currently in trials, we find out if the technology is likely to become a common feature of large reciprocating engines in years to come.

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