As more smart grid projects and tools are rolled out, we're getting to hear about real-world successes and benefits from customers saving on the energy bills to utilities being able to more efficiently handle power loads and avoiding major costs. A Chattanooga utility is the most recent to add its story to the list.
Jim Glass, the manager of smart grid development at EPB Chattanooga was recently able to put a price tag on the amount of money smart grid controls saved them during a July windstorm that swept through the city.
As reported by Greentech Media, "At the time, Glass said it was difficult to put a monetary figure on the savings. But new data has done just that. The utility has been installing 1,200 S&C IntelliRupter automated switches on the distribution grid since early 2011. The utility also boasts one of the fastest internet pipelines in the world and a full rollout of smart meters.
It is the switches that paid off in the summer storm. The utility had a 55 percent reduction in duration of outages, and the expedited restoration saved EPB Chattanooga $1.4 million."
Whoa. That's pretty significant. When promoting the smart grid, a lot of focus tends to be on the money savings customers will receive and while that's certainly an incentive, the real payoff of smart grid technologies is in these distributed automated response systems and the ability for utilities to have real-time information and controls at their fingertips. It could make the difference between city-wide blackouts during heat waves and storms and just a few outages.
Not only did the utility save a lot of money, but customers had to deal with fewer and shorter outages. According to Greentech Media, there were 58 million avoided minutes of customer interruption and for those that did suffer outages, power was restored 1.5 days sooner than it would have been before the smart grid roll out.
The map below shows the customers who were affected by outages in red dots and those that would have been affected before the smart grid upgrade in blue dots.
Luckily, EPB Chattanooga isn't alone in taking advantage of the smart switches as part of smart grid upgrades. Southern Company, Consolidated Edison, Duke Energy Carolinas, Avista, NSTAR, CenterPoint and many others are installing smart switches too. As more success stories come out, we hope customers and utilities will begin to see the full advantages of the smart grid.