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Technology Harnesses Tomorrow’s Utility Revolutions

Author: Tom Hoblitzell | | October 23, 2018

Today’s utility grids are aging and will require significant upgrades and updates to manage the demands of the very near future. However, as scientists evaluate how best to ensure stable energy and water supplies for the future, they are also contemplating how technology will play a part in those new strategies.

In the energy industry, incorporating distributed power generation sources is one goal they’ve identified. In both the electricity and water sectors, enhancing efficiencies to reduce costs and improve processes is another.

The Traditional Utility Infrastructure and Distributed Power Generation

Ironically, the surge in renewable energy resources and their related power generators may prove to be a godsend for the typical utility company, in terms of reducing system stress while maintaining sufficient supply. As is covered in Datavail’s white paper on the subject, much of today’s utility infrastructure is outdated and aging and needs an almost total overhaul if it is to maintain service levels for the country’s growing population and utility demand.

Renewable energy sources and their capacity to support distributed energy resources (DERs) may offer a solution by providing increasing volumes of resources without over-taxing the existing utility system. In a 2016 treatise on the ‘utility of the future,‘ MIT experts surmised several variations on the theme of how DERs could contribute laterally to today’s traditional ‘top-down’ (vertical) utility structure:

  • Either independently or as a system, DERs could add to the grid the power it needs at peak periods, eliminating the need to add additional assets to the existing utility matrix to meet future, higher demands.
  • Using a variety of control mechanisms, DERs could be used to provide the power needed in remote locations where traditional utility structures are failing or absent.
  • Technologies connected to both DERs and conventional utility configurations could flex to maximize either or both as demands rise and fall, ensuring that weaknesses or failures in either system don’t cause crashes or system slow-downs.

Regardless of the final configuration, the MIT report indicates that DERs will (if they already don’t) have a meaningful impact on the power grid of the future, and that technology will play an increasingly important role in how that all works out.

Enhancing Efficiencies Solve Both Utility and Consumer Challenges

In addition to helping to balance electrical energy demands, scientists predict that technology will also improve the efficiency of the evolving water utility sector, as well.

Like the energy sector, many aspects of America’s water supply systems are also eroding beyond their capacity. Emerging technologies developed to address this concern are providing the data needed to evaluate the health and well-being of whole water utility districts. Data collected from sensors installed in or on pipes, pumps, ducts, and connectors provide insights about water quality, water pressure, demand loads and other utility variables. With corresponding data analytics programming, utility operators can identify where within their systems problems are occurring or are about to occur.

When that data is collected or extrapolated on a watershed scale, the information it provides can support a myriad of investment, development and capacity decisions to increase the efficiency and quality of those water services. Further, when shared with other utilities or relevant industries, governments and citizens have better information upon which to develop their communities.

All this recent research indicates that significant changes are coming to both the energy and water utility sectors, in terms of both supply and demand. Technology is already contributing critical data to drive today’s changes and will be even more important as these industries develop their future strategies to serve America’s communities and businesses.

See our white paper for more information about how America’s utility infrastructure is aging and changing, and how Datavail’s utility-specific technology is helping power and water companies to manage those concerns.

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