Building a More Robust Smart Grid

Over the last few years there has been an increase in extreme weather conditions. Utility companies have to be prepared for these events. The Department of Energy at the Brookhaven National Lab has been hosting workshops to examine issues with current utilities and to discuss what technology is available to help plan for extreme weather conditions.

The last conference in April has representatives from the government, academic institutes, utility companies, vendors, representatives from the Los Alamos Lab, and other professionals meet at a two day conference to discuss this situation.

Larisa Dobinansky who is the vice president for Legal, Regulatory, and Policy Affairs for General MicroGrids stated that the customer base has changed since the September 11th terrorists acts. Since that time her company has been working to prioritize services to utility customers even during times of disaster. One way to provide energy is through the use of microgrids which are interconnected and are able to provide energy to defined electrical boundaries within this grid. There is a microgrid created in the lab and is currently being tested.

The current system that is used is able to organize data but does not create information. It is not able to analyze and goes into storage mode. The Integrated System Management uses ORU to find information, analyze data, and uses a radar system during storms to reduce power outages. It is able to identify where the critical areas are and what areas need their power restored first.

ICF International provides advice to the government and business on energy, environments, and infrastructure issues. According to this organization the general public does not have a high opinion of utility companies. They stated that year round service has to be improved, not just emergency services.

The director of the Emergency Preparedness for Northeast Utilities created an emergency plan due to the 2011 snowfall and was able to quickly restore power. The utility company and the state could not agree on whose responsibility it was to remove fallen tree from the roads and power lines. They ended up working together to develop procedures and distribute clean up responsibilities. The utility company will clear the power lines and the community will remove debris from the roads.

The attendees at this conference agreed that they need to be prepared for unknown events that have not previously been planned for.

On the second day of the meeting the participants listened to a presentation from the Nonproliferation and National Security Department and from the Emergency Response Management Team. There are plans for formal staff training in incident management.

The participants listen to a presentation on how to predict power outages and determine the areas to assist first. There is a system being developed to have a plan in case the power system fails.

The Whitney Research Service company is looking at the vulnerability of the electric grid and found that there is going to be a lot of planning needed to make it work. There are three threats to this system including the maintenance, vegetation, and indifference that can affect the success of this system. The grid can fail due to solar flares and attacks on the lines.

The Homeland Security Institute stated that electric was a luxury in the past and now people feel that it is a basic right. There was a discussion about where this service is going in the 21st century and what the responsibility of the customers should be in case of a power outage and pending storm.

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