PG&E customers are experiencing some of the most reliable electric service in company history.
But how do you improve safety, reliability and customer satisfaction?
The answer can be found at PG&E’s Applied Technology Services facility in San Ramon, where a small team is experimenting with technology that eventually will impact millions of customers.
One of the projects involves testing software that will significantly reduce the time it takes to detect and locate faults that cause power outages due to equipment failures or because of weather-related incidents like trees falling on a power line. This will also improve the safety of PG&E’s system, as some of these faults might be hard to detect and locate.
Tucked in the back of the facility is a control room with computers, servers and controllers. Outside the room is a distribution test yard that can recreate a distribution substation or feeder with equipment used in the field, including regulators, breakers, switches, capacitor controllers and transformers.
“It’s really a laboratory,” said Fred Skillman, senior advising engineer.
The technology, which will be piloted over the next few years, will allow PG&E to identify and fix the faults by communicating with the operators, and by significantly reducing the first responders’ travel time.
Heading the six-person team is Neelofar Anjum, who adds a global perspective. Originally from India, where she worked for a utility, she moved to the United States in 2007, and came to PG&E six months ago.
Compared to India, Anjum said PG&E is able to more quickly but cautiously incorporate new technologies because of its progressive outlook, developed infrastructure and availability of resources.
“We have excellent resources here to experiment with different things and everybody’s open to new ideas,” she said. “In India, they’re open to new ideas but it takes a long time for them to incorporate them into their system. Yes, we have a big ship, but we can maneuver it better.”
Working on projects like this is gratifying, both Anjum and Skillman said.
“It’s very rewarding working on something that is next generation, that’s in the future, that’s leading-edge in terms of where the company’s headed,” Skillman said. “So it’s wonderful to be a part of that.”