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New Research from Cooperatives on the Benefits of Smart Feeder Switching

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has released a new TechSurveillance report on the results of smart feeder demonstrations at nine cooperatives: “Self-Healing System: Electric Co-ops Explore the Value of Smart Feeder Switching.”

The TechSurveillance article is the second in a series of articles on the results of NRECA’s Smart Grid Demonstration Project (SGDP), a $68 million project supported by the Department of Energy, deployed and evaluated an array of smart grid technologies at 23 cooperatives in 12 states.

Smart feeder switching – also called self-healing systems – uses communications and automation software to enable utilities to locate and isolate faults and restore service remotely with or without manual intervention. The systems can also help prevent outages by dynamically reconfiguring the distribution network to prevent overloading, minimize outage risk and achieve load balancing.

“Co-ops’ rural system engineering topologies, some of which crosses the country’s most rugged and difficult terrain, stand to benefit substantially from tools that allow remote service restoration,” said Jim Spiers, NRECA’s vice president of technology, engineering and economic analysis. “At the same time, by listening to the co-ops we have extracted valuable lessons on technology planning and change management that will enable other utilities to deploy these tools successfully.”

The nine co-ops deployed an array of smart feeder switching systems. In evaluating the systems, they sought to identify and quantify benefits, as well as potential problems. The research also contributed to the development of a cost-benefit methodology that can be used to quantify the value of faster restoration and other savings available from smart feeder switching.

Benefits realized by cooperatives during the project include:

  • Faster service restoration and significantly reduced outage durations
  • Lower operational expenses associated with planned and unplanned outages, as well as load shifting for system maintenance
  • Remote control of system components, ability to sectionalize for planned outages, load shedding and remote feeder control

Co-ops who participated in the smart feeder switching demonstration were: Adams Electric Cooperative (Ill.); Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative (Wisc.); Clarke Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Iowa); EnergyUnited (N.C.); Kotzebue Electric Association (Alaska); Owen Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Ky.); Salt River Electric Cooperative (Ky.); Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corporation (Ga.); and Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative (La.).

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