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London tests out Smart City operating system
This is precisely the problem. The need is really for backing up major grid strain with local power production ie to use generating capacity with Combined Heat and Power Units, since nearly all excess grid strain occurs in the winter, when both demand is higher and renewable supply is lower. CHP used widely, especially CHP with a relatively high fraction of electricity per kWh of fuel, allows the grid to automatically back up renewables in the most efficient way (ie over 80% total efficiency, over 100% when used with heat pumps). This also minimises local demand supply problems, since more of the local network supplies its needed power during peak periods of demand. A 'smart grid' wont solve most problems on the grid and it wont raise efficiency by an appreciable ammount and it wont benefit renewables. Even long distance renewables over a so-called 'super-grid' will have trouble in a Wind power heavy system (or solar) since it tends to be that wind or solar energy is matched across large regions (ie Britain and Ireland) and doesn't match demand profiles, so that there is little levelling possible through simply connecting grids together. There is also the problem here, that even if that were possible, such long distance connections simply dont have enough capacity to resolve this problem and redistribute power adequately (which in practice needs to be close to the whole demand and generaing capicity to all parts of the network, a major upgrade). The proposed European Supergrid connected to North Africa is estimated to cost 250 Billion Euros and supply at most only 100GW, not enough to practically load level Europe (especially with electric vehicles comming on line), and of course, being reliant on solar, with no return demand for our wind, both the reliability/round the clock supply and economic effects of importing more energy make the scheme effectively very uneconomic and undesirable. Local power generation and new storage technologies can form a true 'smart grid' that may be controlled remotely, but is quite different in ethos to the smart grids commonly promoted.
Edited by ATB2012
Updated - 8th May 2012