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Utilities north and south are getting smart with switches

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I've been a business journalist since 1985 when I received an MBA from Penn State. I covered energy, technology, and venture capital for The Philadelphia Business Journal from 1998 through 2013....

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  • Jul 29, 2021
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North, south, east, west

Utilities think smart switches are the best.

 

OK, it’s a bad poem and it exaggerates the geographic area covered in this post, but it spontaneously sprang into my mind when I encountered some stories about electric utilities deploying smart switches.

 

The north and south part is fine, as the utilities range from north of the border to two southern states, including one on the Gulf of Mexico. Two are investor-owned and one is a public power utility. Still, all think smart switches are going to help them keep the lights on and so are adding them to their grids.

 

Hydro One, which is based in Toronto, said in late June that it has added more than 2,300 smart devices to its system since it began its grid modernization program in 2018 and plans to add 500 this year.

 

The company said the smart switches enable it to isolate problems on its grid, thereby reducing the number of customers they affect. Hydro One also is adding digital sensors that better enable it to pinpoint where problems are occurring.

 

Hydro One said its grid modernization program has enabled it to avoid 20 million customer minutes of power outages, even though so far it only has deployed smart devices in 10 percent of its service territory.

 

Down in bayou country, Entergy Louisiana said in a July 26 press release that it is spending $3 million to improve its grid in Webster Parish. The improvements include new poles and powerlines and substation enhancements, but they also include smart switches and reclosers.

 

In between those smart switch deployments, BrightRidge, a public power utility based in Johnson City, Tenn., said in late June that it will issue $28 million in bonds next month to fund a “Smart Grid” investment that will include the installation of 72 smart switches.

 

The company said an impact study of the installation of 1,100 smart switches on the grid operated by the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga found that it boosted reliability by as much as 50 percent.

 

That type of improvement is why utilities in the north, south, east, and west love smart switches. Or at least the three utilities in the north and south that I mentioned in this post.

 

 

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