Smart Grid

November 06, 2012

Power Outages from Hurricane Sandy Suggest Value in Smart Grid Architecture

Hurricane Sandy caused 48 fatalities in the state of New York alone, and a total death toll over 110 across the Northeast at the end of October. This Category 1 hurricane affected a handful of Atlantic states and caused a lot of destruction, particularly in New York City and New Jersey, where many streets and subway tunnels were flooded from a violent coastline.

This storm, however, assigns renewed important on some next-generation sources of electricity that can remain operational when everyone else is out – smart grids.

The gale-force winds also brought down trees and power lines. As a result of the wind damage, the storm left many residents without electricity. New Yorkers were not only stranded and left in the dark, but lack of power left them with no heat as the country nears the winter season.

The continuing exposure to weather-related risks in the U.S., however, teaches an important lesson in emergency preparedness and risk planning for electric companies people must count on to help prevent power failures.

The responsibility for providing these essential services in advance rests on electric utility industries that need to find alternative methods to help predict and prevent potential losses of power. That solution may be as simple as deploying smart grids to improve our use and supply of electricity.

The smart grid, an electric power system, is a fairly new concept that has been re-engineering the electricity services industry. Used as an alternating current power grid and distributed power source, it can deliver electricity when needed most.

Even uses of “smart meters,” which are software-controllable devices dedicated particularly to electricity metering, have also proved their worth for power restoration efforts. Their capacity of two-way communication provides utilities real-time data if there is any loss of power, alerting those areas where the break has occurred.

Meter readings, or lack thereof, provide the vital information for those responsible for taking the appropriate action, either to solve the problem associated with the fault of the meter or power outage from extreme weather conditions, or to restore power remotely from a linked smart command center – which can turn power back on.

As either part of a smart grid or used by itself, smart meters can help ensure electricity is available whenever a disastrous storm like Sandy hits. To avoid having millions of people left without power for days, utility companies should plan to have in place smart grids and/or smart meters. Their technologies would have kept them informed of the damaged and destroyed power lines, and have relieved many workers in the electricity industry from having to physically drive to each one to check them out.

Edited by Braden Becker