GE begins work on New Zealand smart grid

NEW ZEALAND - GE Energy announced that it has commenced the first phase of implementing its smart grid technologies-based electricity network and distribution management system for power transmission and network operator Orion New Zealand Limited.

When implemented, the system will not only tremendously improve the reliability of the power supply, but also will enhance Orion's capability of handling emergencies occurring in the network and allow the company to more quickly restore the power supply faster in the event of an outage.

GE's state-of-the-art Electrical Network Management and Control (ENMAC) network distribution system is expected to be fully installed and operational by mid-2010. The system will provide Orion with real-time inputs on trouble areas in the distribution system, the flow of power and potential solutions for outages.

The solution is a fully integrated, advanced network management tool that controls, manages and monitors power transmission systems. The tool enables control room personnel of the energy utility to carry out front-end real-time data processing tasks as well as remote operations. The system provides integration of information on the status of the distribution network, updates on customer outages, the cause of disruptions, and the response cycles of field crews.

The system assists in bringing together the main control center with other communication facilities by providing a platform for sharing support infrastructure and data. It improves the quality of service performance and also reduces network maintenance and operating costs.

By effectively integrating geographical and customer information and call centers, the smart-grid system considerably reduces support costs and improves utilization of assets thereby bringing down capital expenditure. The solution consists of three key functionalities: an advanced graphical user interface, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and network management system modules.

The implementation of the smart grid management system for Orion will be carried out in three phases. GE Energy has completed the SCADA phase, which enables effective control of the network as well as provides real-time data for monitoring the system. The second phase will involve the implementation of the distribution network management system through which Orion can maintain and control the network from a single point.

This system also includes a power network diagram, which will assist in bringing down power cuts and increasing recovery speed in the event of a disruption. The third stage of the implementation process will involve the installation of the outage management system, which will re-route power in case of an outage, identify the most likely cause of the disturbance, dispatch field personnel, and assist operators in faster and effective decision making to restore electricity. ENMAC's mobile facility will provide information to field crew over the wireless mobile network platform, which will reduce response time and improve the effectiveness of service provided to the customer.

Orion provides power transmission services to about 190,000 businesses and households in central Canterbury between the Rakaia and Waimkariri rivers and between Arthur's Pass and Canterbury Coast. The Christ Church City Council holds a majority stake of 89.3% in the firm, while the Selwyn City Council holds the remainder. For the financial year ending March 31, Orion posted a net after-tax profit of $32.09 million. The company plans to invest about $257.2 million on infrastructure development during the next 10 years.

Smart grid technologies-based electricity network management systems are gaining popularity globally, as they effectively integrate renewable energy sources and control power demand during peak periods, thereby improving system performance.

Recently, GE Energy secured a contract to set up the smart grid system for Maui Electric Company (MECO). The project, which is being developed jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy, Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaiian Natural Energy Institute and MECO, will use the technology to assist in maintaining circuit voltage levels, controlling peak demand, and integrating solar and wind power sources.

The island has a peak demand of about 200 megawatts (MW), of which about 30 MW comes from wind power. With new windfarms under construction, the contribution to the network is expected to increase considerably. The smart grid system will play a critical role in alleviating issues related to grid reliability, especially in the case of wind power fluctuations.

In May of this year, GE Energy also implemented the system at Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) to handle interruptions in electricity supply. The outage management system helps CSU provide quicker responses to power cuts and also informs customers of the probable time taken for restoration.

The United States, which is focusing on energy efficiency and security, is actively promoting the development of renewable energy sources in the country. Recently, the Department of Defense awarded a $2 billion contract to GE Energy to develop a smart grid network demonstration project to be implemented at the Twentynine Palms military base in California. GE Energy will design the system on the ENMAC foundation to optimally use the power available onsite, as well as effectively integrate and store renewable energy.


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