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New Jersey utility looks to make smart grid improvement after Sandy

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, December 28, 2012

New Jersey utility and power company PSEG recently announced that Hurricane Sandy has led to enormous rebuilding challenges, but amid the rubble, the company has found the opportunity to grow, change and redefine electricity generation, transmission and distribution.

The utility wrote in the East Windsor Patch that the devastation caused by Sandy was the worst the company has seen in its 109 years of operation. Although the utility has weathered several storms before, Sandy was a new force that led to never-before-seen destruction. In the two weeks after the disaster, the company brought in thousands of workers from 24 states and Canada to perform more than 2.1 million electric service restorations.

Staying strong
This huge undertaking was the largest ever performed by any utility in the country, and entailed removing or trimming 48,000 trees and repairing or replacing 2,400 utility poles. Once this was completed, the utility still had the daunting task of rebuilding its transmission and distribution infrastructure, the total cost of which is expected to be about $300 million. This doesn't even include the costs stemming from disruptions to generating facilities or the replacement of equipment later on.

"We have begun to take a hard look at Sandy’s lessons and how we can best prepare for future storms, and otherwise improve our responsiveness so as to better serve all of our customers," the company wrote in a statement. "It will not be adequate merely to rebuild our infrastructure as it was, but rather with a view to strengthening resilience and sustainability."

A smarter grid
The utility stated that now, it plans to move forward to install smart grid technologies that will enable safe, reliable, economic and green energy for all of its customers. To do this, the company has committed to developing new technologies, since the "time is ripe" to create a much more intelligent power network, PSEG said.

"We have sophisticated high-voltage networks, but still can’t remotely tell if a tree has fallen on a wire between the street and a customer’s house," the statement read. "There is increasing evidence that where it has been deployed, smart grid technology can make a substantial difference - helping identify outages, isolate and fix problems more efficiently, and keep customers up-to-date with pertinent information."

The utility also plans to introduce more redundancy into its distribution network, which would ensure backup layers of protection for the grid. To do this, PSEG says it plans to develop and design more circuits that are capable of getting electricity to customers from multiple directions, and building more advanced facilities on higher ground. The company cited its new substation, which is under construction in Newark, as a prime example of its strategy that focuses on reliability and network intelligence.

"This hardly exhausts the list of possible initiatives or ideas worth exploring. Many options will require substantial investments," the utility added. "We look forward to a good, ongoing dialogue with all the stakeholders on the issues."

In the weeks following Sandy, there were dozens of reports on how smart grid technologies helped to keep the damage caused by Sandy to a minimum. According to Smart Grid News, one PPL customer said the smart grid allowed him to check the repair status on his home, remotely check real estate properties he owned and be in communication with the utility.

SUBNET has developed solutions that help utilities get the most out of their network of intelligent electronic devices, data from which can lead to much better outage manage during serious storms like Sandy. 

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