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T&D World Magazine

A Tour of PG&E's Newest Distribution Control Center

With the opening of a third electric distribution center last month, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. completed a successful, multi-year project that has transformed how the company monitors and operates its electric grid.

Take a tour with us through the newest control center in Rocklin in Northern California.

Customer benefits include enhanced reliability, quicker response to outages and emergencies such as natural disasters, and increased capabilities to continue adding clean, renewable power sources such as solar and wind.

“PG&E’s investments in Rocklin and our other new distribution control centers will allow us to make progress in two areas we know our customers care about: improving reliability and integrating higher levels of clean energy on our grid,” said Geisha Williams, president, PG&E Electric.

“Grid operators are the quarterbacks of our system, and these new control centers give them real-time insight into the health of the electric grid. Using new technologies such as SmartMeter™ advanced features, our operators in these centers can react rapidly to changing conditions, dispatch the closest field resources and get the lights back on for our customers,” said Barry Anderson, PG&E vice president of emergency preparedness and operations.

The new distribution control center is just one of many infrastructure investments in Placer County and Northern California. PG&E invested more than $35 million last year in the electrical infrastructure that serves Placer County and more than $2.7 billion systemwide. The new facility will add to the $8.5 million that PG&E pays in property taxes to Placer County each year.                                                                                            

Electric operators also played a key role in helping design the new nerve center of the electric grid, helping to design the work stations and technology that they will be utilizing to control the grid every day.

“Self-Healing” Grid Technology

Operators also have the ability to remotely control equipment and work with automated "self-healing" technology that has been installed on electric circuits throughout Northern California. These Smart Switches automatically isolate outages and help reroute the flow of electricity to minimize the number of customers affected by an outage and restore others within minutes. To date, this self-healing technology has helped avoid more than 100 million customer outage minutes and saved more than 1 million customers from a sustained outage.

Enhanced Natural Disaster and Storm Resiliency

This facility will further enhance PG&E’s disaster resiliency capability. The control center is constructed with redundant data and power feeds to assure a high degree of reliability. Additionally, the center has the flexibility to shift operations through seamless technology to the two other regional control centers if support is needed in the event of a major storm or natural disaster.

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