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Smart grid could help New York prevent blackouts, NYISO says

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, October 25, 2012

The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) announced on Wednesday, October 24, that investments made by several New York agencies, municipal utilities and the U.S. Department of Energy have resulted in a major improvement in the city's electric grid.

These improvements are a part of a larger push for utilities to upgrade aging electrical infrastructure, which NYISO says could help New York prevent a serious blackout akin to the one that crippled the Northeast in 2003. Stephen Whitley, president and CEO of NYISO, said utilities have completed the installation of several grid-monitoring intelligent electronic devices (IEDs), which allows the region's grid operators to identify a potential fault and develop a solution before serious damage can be done.

"We will have the tools to see that something is going on, take an action to stop it, that we didn't have before," Whitley said. "If this network would have been in place back in [2003], and the operating procedures had been in place to make use of the data coming into the control centers, they would have seen a deteriorating condition, and local action would have happened in Ohio before things got so bad that in a matter of seconds most of the entire eastern interconnection went down."

The new smart grid technology will have the ability to prevent a blackout like the one in August 2003, which left 55 million people across eight U.S. states without power. Cost estimates show the blackout may have cost as much as $10 billion in economic impacts. Showing the highly connected nature of the grid, the blackout sparked in Ohio, and eventually made its way to New York.

According to Platts, one of the most crucial investments that was made was to install 420 phasor measurement units throughout the U.S. power grid, which keep track of voltage and current of electricity that flows through certain areas of the grid. This gives operators the ability to more accurately monitor the health of the grid.

"The goal of the phasor measurement unit deployment is to provide wide-area visualization of the system and improved operations," said Patricia Hoffman, DOE's assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability.

The installation of the devices, however, can be costly and time consuming. To ensure efficient installation, some of the largest utilities in North America have deployed SUBNET products, which ensure disparate devices work together across any communication platform. 

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