Western utilities seek stimulus grants for synchrophasors

- Smart meters and distribution automation are nice things, but synchrophasors are worth $50 million in Department of Energy stimulus grants too, according to a consortium of western utilities.

The Western Electricity Coordinating Council — the entity that oversees bulk power transmission across the Western United States and Canada — has asked DOE for a $50 million chunk of its $3.3 billion Smart Grid Investment Grant program for a project it says could make the broader electricity transmission system more reliable and efficient.

That system would use synchrophasors, or phasor measurement units — devices that can measure the quality of the power being transmitted across various sections of the grid.

Those would be linked with communications and utility control systems to allow transmission grid operators to foresee problems on the grid and potentially transmit more power over existing transmission lines.

They could also help with the challenge of integrating renewable sources like wind or solar power into the grid. WECC is asking DOE to cover up to half of the $100 million cost of the project, which has partner utilities including Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, Arizona's Salt River Project and the Bonneville Power Administration.

The latter, a DOE agency that transmits power throughout much of the Pacific Northwest, has been a leader in testing and installing such systems, as detailed by this report.

Amidst the dozens of applications for smart grid stimulus grants, this one stands out for being focused on the electricity transmission system. Most of the projects seeking grants are instead focused on smart meter deployments or distribution grid improvements.


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