Heat Wave Risks to Your Wallet and Sanity
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Utilities have implemented many measures to ensure there are fewer disruptions to the power grid this summer.
Newer technologies have allowed electricity companies to minimize strains to the grid during extreme weather and to restore power quickly in the event of a heat wave, blackout, brownout or a storm such as a hurricane .
Many utilities have adopted smart meter technology and have begun installing smart meter grids for its residential customers to help mitigate outages and help consumers spend less money for electricity .
Commonwealth Edison Co. , the Chicago utility company, is installing 4 million GE smart meters, which is part of the city's plan to modernize its grid, manage its energy usage and plan and respond to outages more quickly. In 2009, Florida Power and Light installed 4.5 GE million smart meters which allowed customers to track and report outages and maintenance in their neighborhoods simply by looking at an online map.
Utilities are now adopting methods and strategies to implement distributed intelligence, isolate the issue to prevent it from cascading and "closing the loop on software," said John McDonald, director of technical strategy and policy development at GE's Digital business. When customers incorporate tweets about outages or take photos of downed trees, GE's software can incorporate the data into its management system directly to assess the situation quicker, he said.
"The integration of all the components is really where the value is to the utility," McDonald said.
Con Edison of New York was able to de-energize some of its sub-stations before Hurricane Sandy hit, because they were in low areas, preventing salty flood water from damaging the facility. The utility used tools to shut off the substations and prevent the short circuits that would have damaged the power grid. By shutting the substations, it helped keep the grid operating, he said.
"You try to minimize your damage," McDonald said. "In the future, the main thing is to invest and integrate the components and embrace new ways of doing this such as empowering customers with social media to have more effective communication. We're at the tip of the iceberg."
The massive heat wave crossing the U.S. last week could have created a critical situation where many power outages would have been triggered . With increased demand and usage, utilities are not always aware of where damages occur.
Smart Grid technologies could lower the cost of power disruptions by 75% by 2020, the Electric Power Research Institute estimates.
Using smart technology helps operators understand the loads on the existing power lines, where to have more efficient design or when to use alternative energy sources such as solar, wind or hydro to prevent power surges or blackouts, said Ahmad Haidari, global industry director for ANSYS, an engineering simulation software company.