Automation technologies promise a reliability revolution.
Alyssa Danigelis is a New York-based technology writer who blogs for Discovery News.
When Hurricane Ike ripped through Houston in September 2008, thousands of poles were damaged in CenterPoint Energy’s 5,000 square-mile territory. Most of the utility’s 2.1 million customers lost power. CenterPoint brought in 12,000 line workers from across the nation to help with downed lines, looking for where trees had fallen into primary circuits. Kenny Mercado, CenterPoint’s division senior vice president for advanced metering system deployment, remembers that painstaking process. “It’s like a needle in a haystack,” he says. Restoration took 18 days.
One post-storm proposal called for the whole power system to be put underground, but CenterPoint determined that would be both cost prohibitive and too disruptive. Instead, a new plan emerged, one that would make the existing grid more intelligent and responsive. Now, with help from a DOE grant, the utility is undertaking a project that promises to safely restore power faster and with greater accuracy by deploying self-healing technology within CenterPoint’s new smart-grid system.