Utility companies are facing increased pressure to keep down costs and optimize assets, while improving power and service quality, despite struggling to manage distributed energy resources’ increased integration into the grid.
Fortunately, there is light on the horizon – smart grid technologies are being introduced to medium and low voltage substations to try to relieve some of this pressure. So how do these technologies solve medium voltage substation issues?
It Allows Utilities to Optimize Assets and Manage Remotely
Smart grid technology means utility companies need fewer feet on the ground, which means they are finally able to reduce their operational and management costs.
It Improves Smart Meter ROI
Smart meters are already deployed all over the world, and they are a huge investment for utility companies. The Global Smart Grid Federation believes [link: www.globalsmartgridfederation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/smart_meter_security_survey.pdf] there will be 800 million smart meters worldwide by 2020. Smart meters make for smarter consumers, but it’s a smart grid that makes for smarter utilities.
All smart meters communicate via the substation they are connected to, which means medium voltage substations are vital in smart meter data aggregation. Utility companies can see a better ROI (return on investment) by leveraging this data to optimize their current assets and distribution networks.
It Improves the Overall Service
In order to provide customers with the best possible service, utilities need to control the one thing they have very little control over – interruption time. Even the shortest interruptions are disruptive, it can be costly for business customers, and at worst it can be dangerous.
Unsurprisingly, underground grids have far fewer disruptions than overhead grids because they are protected from outside hazards like storms and falling trees, but it’s simply not currently possible to have all lines underground. That’s why smart grid technologies are so important – smart grid technology means smart reclosers can be added in distribution network feeders where self-clearing faults typically occur, which decreases the number of end users affected by an outage.
An operator can use smart fault passage indicators (FPI) to see real-time information about where faults are occurring on the medium voltage grid. When these switches are remotely controlled, utility companies can improve the overall quality of its service for as many customers as possible by limiting power outages. FPIs also means engineers can diagnose issues much faster, and dispatch crews to fix the issues found.
Smart grid technology will mean utility companies are better able to balance their costs and their quality of service, meaning a better grid for customers and a more sustainable model for utilities.