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52 The PCB Magazine • October 2014 by Bill Burr bPa The Smart Grid Opportunity Abstract The growing demand for electrical power coupled with aging infrastructure is placing considerable strain on the electrical power grid. In addition, migration of electric power genera- tion to the periphery of the grid is presenting new challenges for load balancing and synchro- nization. The continuing need for greater effi- ciency in electric power utilization and control also means that control systems are in the pro- cess of migrating towards individual loads. As a result, greater intelligence is required through- out the grid, from point of power generation to point of power consumption. This combination of power and intelligence is presenting both challenges and opportunities to the electron- ics designer: challenges because small, cost-ef- fective intelligent power management modules need to combine digital logic with mains pow- er, and opportunities because new and innova- tive board level technologies will be required to meet this challenge. What is the Smart Grid? The electric utility industry is transform- ing from a unidirectional commodity business where power flows one way from producer to consumer toward a services-oriented business in which customers are both producers and consumers. In addition, economic impera- tives, ecological concerns, and an aging infra- structure demand improvements in generation and transmission efficiency, as centralized load balancing in the current grid requires standby capacity which represents additional capital and operational costs. This new configuration involves active demand side management in addition to the supply side management for- merly done through passive metering systems. Consumers will be making choices as to how, when, and from whom they purchase electric- ity or provide demand reductions, and whether to become producers themselves. The addition of IT intelligence to the power generation and transmission network necessary to make this all happen has given rise to the term smart grid. While much of the activity connected with the smart grid concept is concerned with inte- f e a t u r e

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