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GE uses smart grid technology to keep operations going during Hurricane Sandy

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, January 02, 2013

When the Manhattan skyline went dark in the days following Hurricane Sandy, GE's headquarters in Rockefeller Center kept its lights on by putting to use advanced smart grid technology that is slowly becoming a standard part of utility operations around the country.

According to Electric Light and Power, the company worked with several utilities before Sandy hit to ensure its broad assortment of smart grid technologies would give the building the power it would need to go on. John McDonald, director of technical strategy and policy development at GE Digital Energy, said the company used the same devices that ensure a stable, uninterrupted supply of power to its data centers.

"It's similar to the technology that this business supplies to very large data centers, like Google. It's a business called critical power. We look at the needs of the building. At 30 Rock we had an uninterrupted power supply and a series of batteries," McDonald said. "In a storm situation, the volts can bounce around a lot in terms of power quality. But with this system, no matter what the volatility is it is able to provide a steady stream of consistent voltage. If power is interrupted completely, the batteries can kick in for short term. Then diesel engines can kick in."

But GE wasn't the only major company to benefit from smart grid technologies. All over Manhattan, businesses have been coming out of the woodwork to speak on how well their grid devices held up during the storm. GE said its work to help the spread of new technologies enabled many on the island to maintain power.

"We helped utilities prepare for the storm, before it even arrived, like ConEd did, by turning things off," McDonald added.

The devices also helped utilities know when and where outages took place thanks to a "last gasp" feature that allows them to send one more signal to the utility that the system had lost power.

"That's key, because the utility then knows the exact time, the exact customer and how the customer is connected to the grid," he said.

SUBNET is helping utilities as they install more communication devices onto their grid infrastructure. SUBNET's Unified Substation Communications solution allows utilities to use one intelligent server  - as opposed to multiple gateway devices - to unify all substation data. 

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