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Today's electric grid infrastructure faces a number of challenges: a centralized communication system that lacks interoperability, inaccurate management systems, and inefficient operations and maintenance processes, all of which are increasingly costly and hamper efforts to maintain grid reliability. This is even before introducing more renewable energy, energy storage, and electric vehicles into the equation.
"Smart grids" promise to solve many of these problems by enabling broad knowledge and control of operations at all levels, from generation to transmission & distribution to end-use, to help better understand and take action regarding areas that are key to maintaining grid health and stability. These will depend upon real-time collection and communication of a wide range of data throughout the grid. Examples include measuring voltage and inductance levels in the T&D network, time synchronization and equipment temperatures at substations, and smart meters and energy conservation in homes and businesses.
All these multiple sensing, monitoring, and control functions will translate into enormous opportunities for various types of sensors. Below are some of the specific market opportunities NanoMarkets anticipates -- some of which need more time to be available or become reliable.
Note that the proliferation of sensors and sensor-enabled capabilities into smart grids will lead to increased consolidation and M&A activity in the sectors around them: e.g., smart metering, outage management systems, SCADA, data computing & analytics, and feeder automation. This is especially likely as broad sensor manufacturers show keen interest in developing sensing solutions for smart grid applications. Moreover, advanced sensor technologies also will expand the addressable market base for smart grid sensors, with suppliers seeking avenues to cross-sell their products into other industries such as water, gas, transportation, and telecom.