The “Smart City” vision starts with “Smart” Generation

Tuning the energy engine

“Smart Cities” as a concept is being increasingly talked about. Activities and investments in smart cities are being driven primarily by rapid urbanization, environmental concerns the needs of citizens and new frontiers of technological development.

Sustainability is a major theme for Smart Cities in terms of the supporting technology, and of course also impacts the delicate balance between man and environment.

It calls for the development of a shared design vision that will provide the ‘engine and control` systems for various essential Smart City features, such as electric transport and charging infrastructure; data centers and energy efficient management systems for homes, offices and factories; public lighting; shore-to-ship power; efficient and reliable water and electricity networks; district heating and cooling systems, etc. For all of these Smart City features, we need the right energy and control solutions.

In our model the engine is energy, and the energy in our model must be both sustainable and renewable, and make no mistake, the terms are not interchangeable. In recent years the strong development of PV energy generation systems, brought about through an extremely accommodating policy of incentives. But sometimes the creation of large photovoltaic power plants has been at the cost of agricultural land that provide food, questioning the sustainability aspect of some opinions

The term “renewable energy” denotes those forms of energy generated from sources which by their intrinsic characteristic regenerating or are no “finite” in the time scale “human” and, by extension, the use of which does not affect the natural resources for future generations .

In terms of electricity generation, it is necessary to optimize the performance of different energy sources and balance them to fit network conditions and consumption patterns. With respect to electrical transmission and distribution, stability and reliability of the network needs to be ensured, while end-users require tools to monitor and interact with the grid to ensure electrical consumption is accurately determined. This is usually the basis for more intelligent or smarter network solutions.

All of this leads to a smarter energy generation model that also includes an increase in distributed generation. The second key element in this model is control. We are talking about high-tech control systems with a significant amount of built-in ICT (Information Communication Technology) solutions that enable the acquisition of information in real time, which the system then manages and uses to ensure that various elements of the energy symphony play together like a well-directed orchestra.

ABB’s Symphony Plus control solution is one such technology that helps manage control renewable power plants, be it wind, solar, geothermal, hydro or any other type. This technology optimizes energy production and collect data for reporting and analysis. Not only it is smart and sustainable, but it also reduces inefficiency of power generation. The foundation for any future smart city is people with a smart vision, who understand the value of a sustainable eco-system.

In the end, we can really only talk about Smart Cities if we have first taken the trouble to plan a way to power them, and this starts with “smart” generation.

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Image credit: (CC BY 2.0) by stevendepolo via Flickr, under a Creative Commons license

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About the author

Andrea Melis

I am Project Manager in Power Systems division in Italy. I'm focused on remote control for renewable power plant, smart city and energy efficiency projects. I am a real fan of a "smart city" life model!
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