Snohomish County Public Utility District recently completed the first major project as part of a multi-year effort to upgrade its electric grid with smart grid technology – on time and under budget. The utility has installed about 163 miles of fiber optic cable connecting its final set of 62 substations, two radio sites and utility buildings. The project is supported by $15.8 million in matching federal stimulus dollars under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. The savings in the first project will help pay for other smart grid components.
“This is a critical milestone as we build infrastructure for a smarter grid,” said PUD General Manager Steve Klein. “We’ve created a fiber ring connecting all of our substations with our corporate center. These technology upgrades will provide additional system capabilities for measuring, monitoring and controlling power via robust two-way communications. Everything we’re doing is moving toward architecture to support smarter systems.”
The fiber installation is the first of several projects that will eventually include automation of substations, a Distribution Management System and a Distribution Automation demonstration area in one of the communities it serves. By 2012, the demonstration will allow the PUD to test automated line switches, capacitor banks, protection devices and other equipment. It’s designed to automatically re-route power and isolate problem areas during power outages, reducing the number of outages and the duration of those outages for customers.
In the future, the PUD’s technology upgrades will allow its customers to monitor their real-time energy use on their computer online or via a smart phone. It will help them obtain more detailed storm outage information. Additionally, customers will be able to better plan their consumption and incorporate small-scale generating sources, such as solar, into their energy supply.
With more customers generating their own power, from sources such as solar, an upgraded grid will provide a better means for power to be used closer to the place where it’s actually being created, reducing line losses. In addition, it will enable better integration of electric vehicles as they gain popularity in communities throughout the PUD service area.
Additional system upgrades would allow the PUD to pursue other features, such as advanced metering to take advantage of new technologies including smart appliances, smart water heaters, dynamic pricing and other opportunities.