Whether it’s a blue sky day or the morning after a destructive storm, today’s electric system is increasingly better able to ensure that cooperatives can keep the electricity flowing to homes and businesses.
Today’s grid technology provides greater “visibility” into the system. Rather than having to rely on line technicians or a limited number of alarms, grid operators receive real-time information from multiple line sensors, intelligent substations and communication devices so they can proactively prevent and respond to grid issues.
Storm repairs can be made much faster, because gone are the days when the only way to identify a problem on the bulk electric system was walking or driving along the power lines – which could be miles.
That is still the case in some situations, but many problems on the bulk power system are now pinpointed by sophisticated geographic information systems and computer systems that operators use to control the grid. This saves line technicians from having to patrol miles of power lines to find the source of the problem, which can make a big difference. After all, you can’t start fixing the problem until you know where it is.
Today’s technology also can minimize how long outages last. For example, Great River Energy’s 4,600-mile power line system includes more than 100 remote-controlled “switches” that can be operated from the control center by system operators when problems on the grid do occur. Thanks to these switches, sometimes customers who might otherwise have lost power for an hour or longer will lose power for less than five minutes.
The distribution portion of the grid, which delivers power directly to homes or businesses, is also much smarter than it used to be. For example, cooperatives now use advanced metering infrastructure, or smart meters, in place of outdated analog meters. These meters indicate immediately when power is out, which helps speed restoration times.