Roughly 1.4 million people from Indiana to Washington D.C. do not have power to keep them cool during the record-setting heat wave. While the number of people without service has decreased since a peak of 4 million on Friday, it is still going to take some time to get the remaining customers back online. Sakis Meliopoulos, Georgia Power Distinguished Professor at Georgia Tech, explains why.
This particular set of events and the outages are purely weather related. There were no power grid issues, but this does not exclude the possibility that as the hot weather persists we may see some power grid issues, such as deficiencies in generation if several plants experience failures due to the weather and the rise of demand due to high temperatures.
The repair of the weather damaged distribution systems will take some time as crews of the utilities work to restore the circuits and service. The limitation is the finite manpower in the repair crews. Utilities that are not affected are sending their crews to assist in the restoration of the circuits. This maybe a story in itself: how utilities help each other.
New and better technologies are also assisting utilities detect, respond and prevent power outages, says Rick Hartlein, Director of the National Electric Energy Testing (NEETRAC), Research and Applications Center at Georgia Tech.
Smart meters help utilities reduce loads incrementally without having to have a complete power outage. They can also instantly tell a utility when and where an outage occurs, helping them restore the outage faster. Smart switching devices help utilities "switch out" only the problem area, minimizing the number people affected.
New diagnostic sensors are being employed to tell a utility when a piece of equipment is "sick,” which allows them to replace or fix the equipment before it fails. Better controllers are also being developed to help control the flow of power in the grid, preventing overloads on lines that would otherwise have a tendency to carry too much load.
Georgia Tech NEETRAC is working with our members, consisting of electric utilities across the U.S. and Canada as well manufacturers that provide products and services to utilities, to develop new technologies that make the grid more reliable and efficient.
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