Power system automation generally involves using intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) that gather electric power data and relay the information to substations or power stations. Depending on the system configuration, basic networks alert personnel when disruptions occur and allow switching from one power source to another. Some communities implement power system automation and control IEDs that include smart grids and smart meters. These units monitor electricity flow through the system and to individual subscribers. A power system automation network can also be used for solar or wind power in addition to conventional electric power.
Pole mounted or underground IED devices, including fault detectors, load break switches, reclosers, and automated switching units, relay information to power stations. Fault detectors can be located above or below ground and indicate when a malfunction occurs in a particular segment. Load break switches not only isolate areas experiencing malfunction but can also remotely redirect the flow of electricity when necessary. Recloser devices automatically shut down a segment when a problem occurs. Power stations and substations sometimes have a power system automation network that includes automatic switches that locate faults and redirect electricity flow as needed.
With increasing frequency, communities are integrating smart grids and smart meters into power station automation. Smart grids enhance the overall performance of conventional grids and do not require human intervention when emergencies occur. The grid automatically reroutes electricity to specific areas in the event of a malfunction and can turn off certain segments to prevent overloads and power surges. Using two way communication, smart grids can also supplement conventional power supplies with solar or wind energy, during times of peak demand, by monitoring usage and calculating periods of elevated requirement in advance.
There are many advantages to power system automation. Power companies usually spend less money on hourly wages, as workers can quickly detect and repair malfunctions. Customers experience fewer outages, and the outages that do occur usually last for shorter periods of time.
Smart meters generally monitor and transmit daily power usage data from individual homes to a power station. Residents also have access to the information, and the meters often relay information about power disturbances to local stations. Some people use smart meters to monitor stored solar or wind energy. Smart household appliances can reduce individual energy costs by operating only during non-peak demand hours.