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EPB Chattanooga gets glimpse of smart grid savings

By Max Burkhalter
August 2, 2013

There are few conclusive studies out there about how much money smart grid technologies can save. One or two have come out predicting incredible cost benefits, but research evidence has not been overwhelming. At the same time, figuringout exactly how much money is actively being saved by smart grid solutions is difficult because it is tough to measure direct savings and not many projects are mature enough to provide meaningful results. However, one utility company did manage to measure its smart grid savings and the results may surprise you.

According to a recent Greentech Grid report, EPB Chattanooga recently completed a study that found it saved approximately $1.4 million in costs during a single major storm.

Looking at EPB Chattanooga's savings
Maintenance tasks and repairs on the grid are extremely difficult to perform because legacy utility technology is not equipped to tell utility providers when there is an outage. Instead, consumers have to call the power company to report the outage and the organization will send engineers out in trucks to drive around, find the problem and repair it. The amount of time that goes into the outage, number of workers needed and materials needed for repairs making repair and maintenance processes among the greatest expenses utilities face.

The smart grid overcomes this through advanced network capabilities combined with distribution and automation systems that report outages to utility providers immediately, notify them of the precise location and let them limit the range of the outage.

When a major storm impacted Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July 2012, the organization experienced outages, but found that it had spent much less than normal to deal with them because of the smart grid systems. A year later, the company has managed to calculate the exact savings at $1.4 million,Jim Glass, manager of smart grid development at EPB Chattanooga, told the news source.

Using terminal servers to ensure smart grid savings
The challenging part about using smart grid systems to reduce costs is that transformer stations and various specialized utility technologies often use serial connections, but Ethernet is necessary for the real-time data delivery that makes the smart grid so effectively. If data is not reaching utility managers quickly enough, they will not be able to identify the outage and get workers into the field. As a result, terminal servers become an essential component of the smart grid, as they offer organizations the network connectivity they need to gain cost savings from the smart grid.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations.The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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