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The Tempest – and the Digital Grid

- October 17, 2016 - 0 Comments

We’ve all experienced it. A flash, a resounding boom, a flicker, then darkness. Then comes the scramble for the flashlights and candles. How long will the lights be out? It’s hard to say, but hopefully after a few anxious moments, there’s a flicker again and power is restored. Usually it’s a brief outage, but what if it’s more than that? What if that flash and boom is a hurricane instead?

osuedu

Source: Osu.edu

This is what the residents of the southeast experienced following Hurricane Matthew. In North and South Carolina alone, more than 1.2 million customers found themselves without power. What happens next?

With digital smart grid systems, your wait will likely be much less than it was in the past.

Prior to smart grid implementation, storm response relied heavily on customer reports. This is problematic at best because when power lines are down, many times the communications lines are out too. Power companies required vast fleets of repair trucks – often recruited from far away utilities – to roam devastated roads to find line disruptions. This hit-and-miss strategy resulted in extended outage times and lost productivity.

Utilities can accelerate service restoration and more importantly, limit the number of affected customers in the first place using smart grid technologies. Fewer trucks are required to manage the disruptions, and crews are used more efficiently.

Utilities around the world are investing big money in upgrading to the digital grid.

Duke Energy in 2011 announced that they were spending $1 billion on the effort. As the investment dollars indicate, it’s not a small endeavor.

And it’s paying off for customers. Following Hurricane Hermine this year, the new Smart Grid technology prevented 25,000 Duke Energy Florida customers from outages – saving over 3 million customer minutes of power interruptions during the storm. Duke Energy is investing more and plans to have Smart Grid devices installed on lines serving 35 percent of customers by mid-2017. Today, only 20 percent of all Duke Energy Florida customers benefit.

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Source: Duke Energy

Upgrading to a digital grid involves transitioning antiquated systems to an Internet Protocol (IP) base, including open standards communication networks that allow for higher levels of automation and real-time data exchange.

With this technology:

  • Utilities can sense a failure as it’s happening. Self-healing grid systems can immediately reroute power to healthy parts of the grid to keep the number of customer outages to a minimum. Many customers will only see a momentary loss as the grid is re-routed.
  • Network systems with “last” or “dying gasp” support can allow utilities to determine where failures occur with more accuracy, allowing for quicker response times and fewer repair crews in the field.
  • Real-time data exchange allows customers to view outage information online, down to their own geographic location and estimated time-to-repair.

We have been at the forefront of the digital grid revolution, helping many of the world’s largest utilities transition their networks to state-of-the-art, upgradable technology. This level of integration also includes highly secure communications and NERC CIP compliance, allowing utilities to respond reliably and quickly to any incident – from a minor traffic accident disruption to devastation from natural disasters.

Using Cisco’s Connected Grid GridBlock Architecture, utilities can integrate their electrical grid with the digital communications network. This provides an end-to-end system control from Trans-Regional and Interchange Networks, through Substation and Distribution Networks, all the way to the Customer and End User Networks and Systems.

See what we can do for your digital grid strategy:

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