Power grids are fragile things, utility poles and wires susceptible to damage by storms, falling trees, even animal activity. Add to this the increasing strain put on the aging infrastructure by modern technology, especially during the hot summer months, and you’ve got a recipe for power failures. Restoring power can be an expensive and time-consuming operation.
While smart grid technology has often been marketed as helping the consumer control utility costs, the real payoff is during a crisis situation. Recently, during a summer storm, EPB Chattanooga [EPBC] experienced some power failures, but nothing like could have been, if not for newly installed smart grid tools.
Since 2011, EPBC has been installling some 1,200 S&C IntelliRupter automated switches on their power grid. Connected by one of the fastest internet pipelines, the switches automatically kept power from bleeding off into broken parts of the grid, while at the same time giving the utility company the information they needed to make quick repairs.
During the storm, Chattanooga experienced 55% fewer power outages and those that did lose power had it restored 1.5 days sooner than without the installed smart grid technology. EPBC estimates that they saved about $1.4 million dollars.
“To be able to point to $1.4 million dollars in operational savings without the inclusion of social costs will drastically help utilities build business cases for their public utility commissions,” said Ben Kellison, smart grid analyst for GTM Research.
[The image above shows in red the actual power failures experienced during the storm. The blue areas are significant, as they show the additional power outages that would have been experienced, were it not for the smart grid technology being installed since 2011.]