Martin LaMonica of CNET provides an interesting, behind-the-scenes view of some of the current challenges in operating the electricity grid.

More data means that grid operators have a far better idea of whether problems may be brewing, rather than finding out only a few moments before impact. Going forward, better system awareness paves the way for more wind and solar power, said Chadalavada.

“If we have these perturbations because of the intermittent nature of renewables, we would like to know about it ASAP and not have to wait even four or eight seconds because that’s a whole dispatch cycle for us,” he said. “Instantaneous rebalancing is much better done with these sensors.”

If, for example, the wind kicks up more than expected, the energy dispatch system could tell a power producer to scale back. Or if the wind dies down, operators could dispatch energy storage. Right now, managing wind is not a big difficulty because it’s such a small portion of the total mix. Although it’s not sure to be built, 3,000 megawatts’ worth of wind power is projected to be added to the New England grid in the next three years, which would be about 10 percent of the total capacity.

With an ambitious 1.5 GW of wind on the drawing board and more to come, Ontario will face similar challenges integrating new sources of renewable energy into its electricity grid.