Pennsylvania Utility Launches Smart Grid Pilot (7/10/12)
PPL Electric Utility’s smart grid pilot project includes communications technology from Alcatel-Lucent, along with other components. The three-year, $40 million project was supported with a federal stimulus grant and serves about 60,000 customers in Dauphin and Cumberland counties around Harrisburg, Pa.
In the event of a local interruption, such as a tree falling on a power line, the smart grid sensors can detect the fault and automatically send energy to another circuit serving the area. Customers could be back online within minutes. By comparison, it might take a field crew an hour or more to patrol the line, identify the problem and reroute power to another circuit before fixing the line.
The pilot system includes a new distribution management system that is made up of many operating programs. Developed by GE Energy, it constantly monitors and analyzes power flow and can take action in some situations. In addition, more than 500 remote switches, relays, sensors and other devices gather information from local circuits, and can respond or act based on remote commands from the utility control center. A high-speed communications network of wireless towers and fiber optic links enable communications between system operators and our substations and devices in the field.
PPL Electric Utilities finished installing all the equipment to support the smart grid. Lockheed Martin provided systemwide cyber security to protect the new, smarter hardware and software. Drexel University’s research and analytical expertise helped PPL Electric Utilities optimize the placement of smart grid devices throughout the system.
By the end of this decade, the utility plans to install distribution automation technology to improve system performance and better serve customers in roughly half its service area, through a prudent pace of one regional project per year. The next phase of distribution automation will be installed in Monroe County in Pennsylvania's Poconos region next year, which will benefit about 70,000 area customers. Engineering work in support of that project began late last year.
The utility plans to invest $664 million this year and $3.4 billion during five years to upgrade its transmission and distribution systems. In addition to installing new technology, the company is also replacing aging equipment, rebuilding existing lines and adding new ones, and taking other steps to maintain and improve reliability.
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