Recently, I attended WPMC conference which was held in Brest, France on 3rd-7th October 2011. Professor Catherine Rosenberg gave an inspiring talk about smart grid.
Electricity grid is a mix-up of generations of systems in particular in north america, and as a result it shows really poor efficiency in the distribution of electricity. Since electricity usage is roughly estimated/predicted only in a large time scale and it is difficult to save electric energy, the production of electricity has to be sufficiently larger than peak demand, leading to a significant waste of global resource.
Smart grid is all about applying the knowledge of internet over the 40 years to the power grid to make it more efficient. Thus, the first step is to understand how the electricity grid works and find out the similarities and differences between the grid and internet. Professor Rosenberg emphasized that we shouldn’t simply try to place sensors and stick to communications and networks issues. What’s more important is to figure out the need of power grid guys that sometimes even they are not aware of.
A fascinating feature of smart grid research is that even a tiny epsilon improvement in the grid efficiency can bring about tremendous benefit to society. Isn’t it interesting especially when you are sick of a pointless less-than-dB-improvement in wireless research field?
Some times even a few dB matters .. at the bottom of a P&L sheet, for instance :)