It’s not enough that technology is being described as smart. Now it even has the power to heal itself.
“Self-healing” and “self-aware” are two of the terms San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) is using to describe the new, super-resilient smart grid it is developing with various high-tech upgrades to existing infrastructure.
In January, the utility announced it was installing several smart grid technologies that will enable the region’s electric grid to detect and withstand outages and other issues much more smoothly and efficiently. The result of this effort will be a more automated grid that can quickly respond to changes and events on its own. The utility claims that, in some cases, the grid will even be able to “heal” itself remotely by sensing and addressing problems before they occur.
The technologies include a wireless network of 10,000 fault detectors that will send alarms to grid operators if a problem occurs anywhere along the power lines. The detectors will enable the utility to pinpoint the exact location of an outage without having to send out manned crews.
The utility has installed 2,000 of the sensors and hopes to complete the installation of the full network by 2017.
SDG&E has also installed sensors on 75 percent of its substation transformers. The sensors will detect potential problems before they occur, enabling the utility to maintain valuable infrastructure by mitigating problems before they inflict costly damage.
In 2012, the electric utility launched an outage-management system that leverages the 1.4 million smart meters already installed on customers’ homes. The system detects power outages and helps restore electricity to customers more quickly.
The utility is also deploying technologies to help incorporate renewable power into the grid. A dynamic volt-ampere reactive voltage stabilizer installed on one circuit with a large solar array will compensate for the variable generation from the photovoltaics and smooth out power transmission along the circuit. Five batteries installed last year will also help stabilize the intermittent power generated from renewables.