How Utilities Are Using Innovative Technology to Protect the Grid
Among the states hit the hardest by Hurricane Sandy, very few utility companies had adequate smart meter technology in place in order to efficiently restore power to customers within a timely period. Crises like Sandy have forced utilities to improve their response systems, many of which still work independently of one another.
There are five major technology areas that can give utilities a better view of their grid. These areas include smart meters and their communication systems; DMS, GIS and SCADA; outage management systems, mobile workforce management systems; and business analytics tools. These are all integral pieces of the grid, but separately, they can be difficult to manage. Fortunately, an Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) can integrate all of a utility’s response systems into one for maximum control and efficiency.
Outage Management and Mobile Workforce Systems
Outage management systems have been the core of utility control centers since the implementation of direct digital controls in the 1980s. Those systems analyzed patterns of phone calls and compared them to outages in the field. They were an improvement upon the wholly manual systems of the past, but early outage management capabilities were unable to reliably provide awareness based on varying situations. Newer systems have integrated digital mapping tools.
Smart meter systems have also enhanced monitoring capabilities, much like they did during Sandy, when utility Baltimore Gas & Electric was able to return power to its customers through the help of smart meter sensors. The meters enabled the utility to monitor outages by sending messages to see if the units responded. The process was worlds more efficient than calling customers by phone to check their power status. Within 48 hours, 90 percent of BGE’s customers had their power restored, and the company calculated that they had saved more than $1 million in labor costs by more efficiently dispatching workers and cutting the need for 6,000 truck deployments.
Utilities also use mobile workforce systems to dispatch crews and update work orders. Originally, outage systems and workforce systems were separate, but over the years, they have been merged through custom integration. Newer platforms offer the two systems in one package and have developed from laptop computers to smaller handheld devices.
The DMS, GIS and SCADA
A Distribution Management System (DMS) is a collection of applications used to monitor and control the entire distribution network. A DMS is designed to reduce outages, minimize outage time and maintain acceptable frequency and voltage levels. A GIS (geographic information system) is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze and manage all types of geographical data. They are most often used by utilities to track and monitor assets in the field. A SCADA is a type of industrial control system that operates with coded signals over communication channels to provide control of remote equipment. The traditional DMS integrates SCADA systems, mapping and demand modeling tools in one platform. In some instances, the outage and workforce platforms are fully integrated within the DMS, but they often run separately, as does a GIS.
An ADMS system combines all of these systems together while also incorporating new information from meters and sensors that have recently been deployed in the field. This could potentially enable a utility engineer to access any combination of data in one place, including location of workers, status of jobs, maps of the service territory and even social media feeds from customers citing outages. Beyond a crisis, the utility could monitor voltage levels, the amount of demand on the grid, and the performance of distributed systems like solar and batteries.
The delivery of ADMS technology has been delayed due to an array of factors. Many of the enabling devices were only deployed in the field as a result of the $90 billion stimulus package allotted to support renewable energy projects and smart grid technologies. Costs of equipment and software can also be a tough sell to regulators.
Still, major grid software and hardware developers such as GE, Schneider Electric and Siemens have increased their ADMS offerings and used extreme weather conditions as a way to sell utilities on their benefits. Utility adoption is increasing nationwide, but many are still missing out on the system that can streamline all of their response systems, protecting and strengthening their grid.
Hydrostor receives $4m funding for A-CAES facility in Canada
Hydrostor has received $4m funding to develop a 300-500MW Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) facility in Canada.
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to plan construction.
The project will be modeled on Hydrostor’s commercially operating Goderich storage facility, providing up to 12 hours of energy storage.
Hydrostor’s A-CAES system supports Canada’s green economic transition by designing, building, and operating emissions-free energy storage facilities, and employing people, suppliers, and technologies from the oil and gas sector.
The Honorable Seamus O’Regan, Jr. Minister of Natural Resources, said: “Investing in clean technology will lower emissions and increase our competitiveness. This is how we get to net zero by 2050.”
A-CAES has the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions by enabling the transition to a cleaner and more flexible electricity grid. Specifically, the low-impact and cost-effective technology will reduce the use of fossil fuels and will provide reliable and bankable energy storage solutions for utilities and regulators, while integrating renewable energy for sustainable growth.
Curtis VanWalleghem, Hydrostor’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are grateful for the federal government’s support of our long duration energy storage solution that is critical to enabling the clean energy transition. This made-in-Canada solution, with the support of NRCan and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, is ready to be widely deployed within Canada and globally to lower electricity rates and decarbonize the electricity sector."
The Rosamond A-CAES 500MW Project is under advanced development and targeting a 2024 launch. It is designed to turn California’s growing solar and wind resources into on-demand peak capacity while allowing for closure of fossil fuel generating stations.
Hydrostor closed US$37 million (C$49 million) in growth financing in September 2019.