The storms that struck the U.S. mid-Atlantic region last Friday highlight not only why we need a smart grid that can reduce power outages, but also why we need smart grid interoperability. The region took two weather-related hits in a row. First, they experienced storms that caused extensive damage to utility power grids. Then, temperatures in the region soared toward 100 degrees, a level at which power demand typically skyrockets as consumers crank up their air conditioners. In this type of situation, the storms and the heat combine to create extreme strain for the power grid.
As I’ve talked about on many occasions, smart grid technology can help reduce power outage durations and increase grid capacity. But to really maximize the benefit of smart grid technology, you need to ensure that different smart grid systems are working together. Especially in a situation like that in the U.S.’s mid-Atlantic region—where a damaged power grid must serve higher-than-usual demand—you need to ensure that the applications that reduce power outages and increase grid capacity are working together.
One way to work toward this goal is to achieve interoperability between automatic reconfiguration and volt/var optimization systems. Automatic reconfiguration systems help utilities maximize electric service reliability in the event of a storm, because they isolate damaged parts of the power grid and reroute power to as many businesses and consumers as possible. Volt/var optimization systems allow the power grid to better handle peak demand, because they effectively lower demand while also boosting grid capacity. When automatic reconfiguration systems and volt/var optimization programs are interoperable, volt/var optimization systems adjust their optimization algorithms after a power outage based on how the grid is reconfigured by automatic restoration systems. This type of interoperability is especially important in situations like that in the mid-Atlantic region, where parts of the grid are already serving more customers than usual as power system repairs continue. With these added customers also using more power than they normally would, utilities need to maximize all possible capacity on the sections of the power distribution system that are still up and running.
The benefits of this type of interoperability are one reason that S&C recently introduced new functionality for IntelliTeam® Volt-Var Optimization System to allow it to easily integrate with automatic restoration systems.
What smart grid applications do you think are most important to make interoperable in order to improve response to major weather events? Please use the comment form to share your thoughts.