Surge Protection and the Smart Grid


By now, the Smart Grid has become part of our vocabulary, and an ever-growing element in the utilities world. The Smart Grid is the result of the modernization of an electrical network system that’s more than a century old. Digital and analog systems take the place of grossly outdated infrastructure, laying the groundwork for the deployment of even more emerging technologies.
Perhaps most significantly, Smart Grid topologies enable greater access to information related to power usage and other details on the grid, using communications technology to detect and react to changes in usage, power anomalies, or other issues. Ultimately, the result is greater efficiency, increased stability, quicker restoration, a more seamless implementation of renewable energy sources, and closer consumption monitoring—all positive outcomes.
How does the Smart Grid impact surge protection?  In certain aspects, the challenges are essentially the same. Lightning strikes can impact equipment, and surge protection devices (SPDs) must be implemented to divert resulting transients to ground. Surge protection can also protect the network from other internal equipment that can create additional transients.
However, Smart Grid topologies include significantly more electronic equipment, all of which must be protected from surges. Additionally, renewable sources such as wind turbines and solar arrays are engineered specifically to produce electricity, and safely manage critical power.
“Surge protection is simple, yet crucial in Smart Grid applications,” said Vrajesh Dave, senior product manager for PolyPhaser and Transtector Systems. “The cost of equipment that forms the core of these networks and the value these networks deliver is just too significant to neglect protection with SPDs.”
The improved efficiencies and advanced capabilities inherent to the Smart Grid are a huge leap forward in the power grid. Surge protection is a significant part of this progress, and a valuable infrastructure component.
How Surge Protection Enhances the Smart Grid
The dynamic nature of the equipment that makes Smart Grid networks “smart” means that surge protection is vital. Protecting components that enable communications throughout the Smart Grid is a challenge network designers must address.
At the heart of the Smart Grid is equipment driven by semiconductors, microprocessors, integrated computers, and other sensitive electronics. Surge protection is crucial for all of these components, in addition to the traditional generators and other equipment in an electrical grid.
Protect Key Equipment
Typical Smart Grid topologies utilize a primary (utility) power source and alternate on-site source (renewable), either of which can serve as service entrance points. Surge protection, therefore, is an essential requirement for both of these channels.
In addition, surge protection should be part of the advanced electronic devices and systems that make up the Smart Grid. The deployment of intelligent equipment throughout the grid means that protection from transients and overvoltages must be prioritized anywhere critical data is sent, received and processed.
Smart Grid SPD applications include basic connection to power equipment, along with data and signaling circuits for control, monitoring and communication. SPDs may be installed in a broad range of applications and environments, such as outdoors, mounted high on poles or within equipment cabinets, or even embedded in a standalone electrical apparatus.
Keep Up With Standards
The Smart Grid is a priority in the engineering world, and as such, organizations such as IEEE, NEMA and ANSI are actively involved in developing key standards specific to the Smart Grid. These guidelines directly affect network and power engineers, system designers, and others involved in network deployment.
Actively engaging in standards development—or utilizing partners who do so—is one way to stay up-to-date.
“Our engineers are involved in many of the organization that develop standards specific to surge protection,” said  Dan Rebeck, Director of Engineering for PolyPhaser and Transtector Systems. “We’re in a unique position to help our customers deploy the right technologies, as well as to have their real-world input brought to standards boards.”

Think Comprehensively
Like most network applications, power protection in the Smart Grid requires a “holistic” approach. Coordinating SPD ratings along different power paths, isolating equipment that requires additional surge protection, and utilizing the best surge protection technology available all are strategies that, ultimately, will help ensure a high level of performance.
PolyPhaser and Transtector SPD technologies offer robust protection for Smart Grid applications which not only include silicon avalanche diode protection (SASD) for better, longer-lasting reliability, but also offers, hybrid technologies that leverage key features such as low let-through voltage protection, quick reaction time, and non-degrading dependability for long-term operability through surge protection. Learn more here.