Smart Grid controls, instrumentation enable reliability, efficiency

Automation and instrumentation facilitate smarter electrical grids, higher reliability systems, as well as smaller and fewer outages, with faster troubleshooting and repairs. See related Smart Grid demonstration explanation and photos from NIWeek conference.


The most widely accepted assumption about the Smart Grid evolution is the need for fundamental changes in electrical grid technologies and their management. At present, customer services and environmental benefits are at the heart of this change. These will certainly enable enhanced grid operations, but a critical aspect of this change will take place in the control and instrumentation arena.

A Smart Grid demonstration at NIWeek 2011 showed how National Instruments automation facilitates recovery and troubleshooting after outages from a tree, squirrel, or lightning, vastly limiting the number of customers without power and pinpointing areas ofThis change will be the catalyst for an essential shift in the physical grid, specifically between the substation and customer service points. If the goal is to make electrical grids self-healing and operationally efficient, then utilities will have to give serious consideration to the control engineering aspects of the physical electrical grids. Control and instrumentation will play a key role in the success of Smart Grids, as better protection and measurement of operational intelligence significantly enhances grid operations. Although control and measurement technologies (including protocols to interact with field devices) have been proven, systems will need to be upgraded and implemented in the right context.

One example of this would be that utilities can detect an outage even before the customer calls, which is a key benefit of smart meters today. The same benefits can be realized using instrumentation and controls at locations on the grid, where they can be integrated with the utility’s demand management system/outage management system (DMS/OMS) and other IT software (such as CIS-computer information systems, WMS-workload management systems, etc.).

Smart Grid technology implementations help utilities detect outages before the smart meter sends out the last kilojoule and also help minimize the impact of outages using better protection schemes and isolation mechanisms. This requires integration between the measurement, operations, and IT systems to derive the necessary operational and business intelligence―thus making the grids smarter, safer, more efficient, and ever more resilient. And while electrical control systems are matured technologies, they must be leveraged to deliver the best value for the Smart Grid. [See related Smart Grid technology story, below.]

Ashiss Kumar Dash is AVP - utilities and head - Smart Grid, and Devendra Vishwakarma is principal consultant, Smart Grid practice, Infosys Limited; Edited by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering, 

Smart Grid avoids longer, wider dumb grid outage, NIWeek demo showed

At NIWeek, Bill Kramer, PhD, senior research engineer, electricity, resources and building systems integration, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), said National Instruments software and hardware are helping with application-specific next-generatA Smart Grid demonstration at NIWeek 2011 (see photos) showed how National Instruments automation facilitates recovery and troubleshooting after outages from a tree, squirrel, lightning, or similar electrical faults, vastly limiting the number of customers without power. The system also pinpoints areas of damage for faster repairs. National Instruments helped power the demonstration showing nearly instantaneous recovery from an outage with a Smart Grid, as opposed to a wider, lengthier outage with a dumb grid.

In back of the demonstration (above), Bill Kramer, PhD, senior research engineer, electricity, resources and building systems integration, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), explained how software and hardware from companies [including National Instruments] are helping with application-specific next-generation Smart Grid technologies.

Search “smart grid” atop,, and, for related information.

- Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

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