Chattanooga Sees Rewards, Benefits From Community Fiber Enabled Smart Grid

Date: 30 Mar 2012 | posted in: MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

The Chattanooga Times Free Press, reports that the City’s last IntelliRuptor, or “smart switch,” will be installed on April 24th. No wonder EPB was named one of The Networked Grid – Top Ten Utility Smart Grid Deployments in North America by Greentech Media. EPB also received a special award for Best Distribution Automation, thanks to its fiber-optic network. EPB and Chattanooga have been similarly recognized in the past.

Quickly locating and localizing power outages will continue to limit power loss which will save tens of millions of dollars each year. According to Harold DePriest, CEO of EPB, “Nobody has applied them (IntelliRuptors) in the numbers we’ve applied them.” A tornado on March 2nd tested the new system and, while 3,470 customers lost power, estimates are that the number would have been double without the use of the smart switches. Smart meters are also being installed, allowing customer usage data sent to the utility, which means that EPB will immediately know who has power and who does not in the aftermath of storms.

EPB saved about 5 million customer minutes in 2011 with half of the switches installed and half of installed switches set up to function automatically. EPB estimates and annual saving of up to $40 million to $45 million for businesses, and between $6 million and $7 million in savings for the utility because of fewer and limited outages.

Putting a dollar amount on loss due to power outages is no easy task. Estimates for losses in the United States vary but a 2005 research study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) put the figure at $80 billion dollars annually. With more smart grids like the EPB system, that figure could be significantly reduced. Community fiber networks are uniquely poised to offer the best option to electric utilities that need reliable, robust connections across their footprint.

A significant number of smart meters (approximately 60,000) and automation points (approximately 300) remain to be installed in Chattanooga.

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Lisa Gonzalez

Lisa Gonzalez researches and reports on telecommunications and municipal networks' impact on life at the local level. Lisa also writes for MuniNetworks.org and produces ILSR's Broadband Bits podcast.