Distribution management at the smart grid frontier.
Alyssa Danigelis is a Fortnightly contributor based in Boulder, Colo. She also writes for Discovery News. Follow her on Twitter @adanigelis.
The computer bank at Oklahoma Gas & Electric isn’t quite HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it promises to change everything. Equipment racks loaded with 100 computer servers are running the software for a new distribution management system (DMS). The system is still in testing, but OG&E hopes that once it’s deployed, the DMS (developed by ABB Ventyx) will be able to translate data transmitted wirelessly from field equipment into timely, useful information for the control room. It will give the utility’s operators the ability to look at the entire system’s configuration when performing fault isolation and restoration processes. It will add intelligence, considering the risks of overload before closing switches. And it will automatically execute a volt-VAR (volt-ampere reactive) optimization routine on a wide scale.
Bringing these capabilities all into one interconnected system represents a substantial advancement in smart grid infrastructure. But when the OG&E project began, planners didn’t see it as being particularly revolutionary. “We were under the impression that more companies had this [type of system] already,” says Scott Milanowski, OG&E’s director of grid intelligence. “We’re finding out that we were a little more on the leading edge than we had initially realized.”