Austin Energy launches smart grid deployment

TEXAS - Texas utility Austin Energy is embarking on the first phase of its smart grid deployment, which is also one of the first in the nation.

This phase-one deployment will help Austin Energy to better manage its assets using GE EnergyÂ’s smart grid software solutions. The software will improve Austin EnergyÂ’s ability to prevent outages and quickly restore power if outages do occur.

GE Energy’s smart grid software solutions will help enhance power reliability and increase energy productivity. These solutions also will help manage alternative renewable power sources, like solar, maximize the utilization and life of assets and pinpoint areas of concern on the grid — similar to online mapping tools that pinpoint traffic congestion on roads and highways.

“Unlike many utilities that lead their smart grid initiatives with smart meters, Austin Energy is leading with innovative software solutions that make products, like smart meters, (have) even more (impact),” said Bob Gilligan, vice president of GE Energy’s transmission and distribution business. “While the smart meter is one of the most tangible smart grid components, the capabilities of the smart meter are enhanced greatly by the addition of other smart grid technologies.”

The efficiency gains achieved by upgrading to a smarter grid from a conventional one would be like switching from a typewriter to a word-processor. The smart grid is, in fact, a banner for many products, including hardware, like smart meters and capacitors, and software, like geospatial information systems and demand response technologies. The smart grid is not “one” product, but rather, a solution suite of products and software technologies improving the grid’s overall performance.

To enhance power reliability and improve asset management, Austin Energy has most recently integrated GE Energy’s distribution management system technology into its existing outage management system. These applications will work in combination with the geospatial information system — essentially, a GPS for the grid — to help notify the utility when a portion of the grid goes down (or is in danger of doing so), thus maximizing power reliability.

Overall, the benefits of the smart grid components being implemented by Austin Energy include:

• reduction in electricity losses in the transmission and distribution of power;

• improved knowledge of real-time grid status to proactively reduce outage impact;

• increased energy efficiency and decreased CO2 output of their existing electrical infrastructure through the integration and optimization of renewables and alternative distributed energy sources; and

• better optimization of power assets, reducing the need for expensive peaking power plants.

Austin Energy is the ninth largest public power utility in the United States, serving 388,000 customers and a population of more than 900,000 within the city of Austin, Travis County and a small portion of Williamson County. It powers the capital city of Texas through a diverse generation mix, with a portfolio that includes nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources.


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