SMART GRIDS NEED SMART COMPUTING SAYS INCOMING CHAIR
12 October 2010
Computer, communication and control sciences are vital to the success of smart grid technology says the University of Sydney's incoming Energy Australia Chair in The School of Electrical and Information Engineering.
Professor David Hill says smart grids are poised to become big business internationally. Australia's small size and coordinated pilot projects like the Smart Grid Smart City initiative, recently awarded to Energy Australia, in Newcastle-Sydney position it well to capitalise on the technology.
Smart grids coordinate electricity demand and supply in order to allow more flexibility and efficiency in the supply of electricity. In particular it allows generation sources to be more diverse.
"As a relatively small nation Australia is in an excellent position to pilot and refine smart grids so they underpin future electricity generation and supply around the world," Professor Hill says.
"But there are a number of problems to solve before this happens. While many people understand smart meters in the home, the technology behind them, the so-called grid-side, needs a lot of work.
"For instance, we need guarantees information on voltages, frequencies and phases can be reliably transmitted from one point to another, in order to help avoid instabilities and blackouts. The Internet's current 'best effort' can't give us this assurance.
"One of my first priorities will be to draw on computer, communication and control scientists' expertise to develop data handling techniques and algorithms, enabling the necessary handling of huge amounts information to implement 'smart' capabilities.
"My emphasis will be about fine tuning smart grid intelligence so we can implement them widely, better integrate renewable energy sources, and fix network problems remotely so there's no need to 'send a truck out' when there's a blackout."
Professor Hill joins the University on 1 November, giving him oversight of the University's Centre for Intelligent Electricity Networks, supported by Energy Australia, at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies. His research will inform the Smart Grid Smart City initiative which he says is a good platform for testing futuristic ideas.
A recent Access Economics study predicted investment in smart grid technology would conservatively reduce electricity usage in Australia by 4 per cent over 10 years.