Over a decade ago, fiber broadband was applied to better monitor and control electrical power distribution. The resulting "Smart Grid" proved to be a big boon to electric utilities, improving uptime, decreasing outages, and adding resilience to their infrastructure.
Storms and other weather events that severely impact power lines and facilities could now be mitigated, with fewer customers impacted through the, well, smarter monitoring of power lines and other plant, with outage areas quickly pinpointed and more rapidly repaired. Customers were happier because businesses stayed in operation and the lights were kept on at home, resulting in more productivity for all.
In addition, automated meter operations enabled power companies to turn service on and off remotely and to directly measure electric consumption, substantially reducing truck rolls for utilities. Less truck rolls mean lower costs for utilities and lower carbon emissions, since you don't have to have someone drive by and read the meter every month.
Weaving high-speed, low-latency, and secure communications into the grid put in a foundation that utilities are now leveraging to further increase efficiency and incorporate technologies undreamed of a century ago when rural electric co-ops geared up to electrify the United States. The "Smart" in smart grid means that utilities are collecting data in real time on electric consumption and can use it to best serve their customers. Utilities are using the information to avoid rolling blackouts during the summer by better managing power generation and distribution at peak times. They can also use the information to customize power rates for businesses and consumers, encouraging conservation as appropriate.
Renewable energy and electric vehicles go hand-in-hand with the smart grid. Renewable energy by its nature is variable - when the sun is shining at noon, solar energy is at peak production, but a cloudy day means less power. Similarly, when the sun goes down, wind energy picks up, but wind power also ebbs and flows.
Managing variable rate power sources requires a buffer, more specifically a grid-sized battery to store excess power when available and put it into the grid as needed. Grid storage is the unsexy part of renewable energy, but also provides utilities with the ability to store power when rates are low and put it into use when it is at peak demand and more expensive to generate.
Smart grid tech gives power companies the communications infrastructure to manage base load power, renewable energy, and storage in real-time. As electric vehicle (EV) usage continues to grow, so does the need for convenient charging stations. Utilities need to be able to communicate with EV chargers in real time the same way they do with power generation and storage resources in order to add power when it is needed.
And the smart grid continues to get smarter thanks to fiber. Utilities will be able to work together in the future to share and combine their resources, joining their microgrids together in order to best utilize the resources they have with one another to save money and further reduce carbon emissions. It's amazing to see the milage we're getting from the use of a single strand of glass.
Kevin leads the marketing efforts for Clearfield as Chief Marketing Officer. He joined the fiber company in 2016, leveraging his extensive experience in advanced communications technology, fiber optic systems, and business product marketing. Prior to joining Clearfield, he spent two decades serving in various senior marketing positions at ADTRAN. Before that, he spent a decade at telephone operating company BellSouth, now a part of AT&T, where he worked as the lead broadband product evaluations resource in the Science & Technology department.
Morgan is currently the Fiber Broadband Association Chair of the Board of Directors. Morgan has also served in various leadership positions at the Fiber Broadband Association, including Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for 2021. Morgan holds an Electrical Engineering degree from Auburn University and an MBA from the University of Alabama.