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Massachusetts-based NSTAR Electric is expanding its GE-powered “self-healing” grid project throughout its service territory to improve power reliability for all its customers. GE’s smart grid technology automatically identifies the location of power outages, isolates faulted sections of the network and re-routes power from other sources, essentially “healing” the system.
The initial rollout of GE’s switch controllers is expected to show a 50 percent decrease in the number of customers affected by failures on main line circuits. The technology is currently operating in a portion of NSTAR’s service territory and, with the help of Department of Energy stimulus funding, NSTAR is now expanding the project – marking the nation’s first utility system-wide deployment of its kind.
“The hot, humid weather we’ve been experiencing this summer pushes electric systems to their limits,” said Tom May, NSTAR chairman, president and CEO. “Our investments in smart grid technology are already helping to lower the number and duration of outages. So our customers, who rely on electricity more than ever in this digital age, are seeing fewer disruptions in their lives. The expansion of the GE technology throughout our system will help deliver increasingly reliable service.”
By connecting sensors, switches and breakers with smart communications and information processing throughout NSTAR’s service territory, GE is helping to ensure that the grid can monitor and diagnose many problems by itself. If a crew is required to respond to the problem in the field, the system can isolate the outage and reroute power so fewer customers are affected during the repair process.
“Nobody likes it when the lights go out,” said Bob Gilligan, vice president of digital energy for GE Energy Services. “Unplanned power outages are a major economic burden. In the U.S. alone, they cost the economy over $80 billion each year. While we don’t have the technology to prevent a traffic accident or stop a tree limb from falling, we do have the technology to dramatically reduce how these events affect the flow of electricity. Now, in a matter of minutes, NSTAR’s power grid will make decisions and alter energy flow to restore power to a portion of customers almost immediately. That’s the new technology GE is offering today.”
GE is providing hardware, software, communications equipment, configuration and testing services for this upgrade. The project will be completed over the next three years.
NSTAR is the largest Massachusetts-based, investor-owned electric and gas utility. The company transmits and delivers electricity and natural gas to 1.4 million customers in Eastern and Central Massachusetts, including more than 1 million electric customers in 81 communities and 300,000 gas customers in 51 communities.