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Smart grid, broad utility upgrades becoming an option in Northeast United States

By Donna Donnawitz
January 15, 2013

Let me pose a hypothetical question: If you owned something that would break periodically, but cost less to repair than to upgrade to the point where it won't break so easily, what would you do? This is the question that most utility providers are facing, particularly in New York City and other parts of the Northeast United States requiring major repairs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

According to a recent New York Times report, many consumers and public officials have been calling out electric companies for not doing enough to harden utility grids against major storms. However, the issue is not as simple as just equipping the grid for better reliability, as repairing has, historically, been the better option.

Repair vs. upgrade - the debate rages on
The news source explained that Consolidated Edison anticipates approximately $450 million will be needed to repair its electric grid systems in and around New York City. While this is a significant cost, the burden may be reduced by government funding. Furthermore, current electric rates are high enough that the company would likely recoup its costs fairly quickly. Conversely, just a single strategy to protect the grid, putting power lines underground, would cost approximately $40 billion, might not be eligible for government support, and would require a major rate increase over the course of a decade to possibly recoup costs.

Up to this point, repairing has made more sense. Hurricane Sandy may have changed this. The news source explained that Hurricane Sandy exposed the full costs of an extended time without power in the Northeast, where personal discomfort for consumers combines with lost business opportunities to make the fee for repairs extremely high. As a result, many public leaders and electric companies are looking at the possibility of making upgrades instead of just continuing repair cycles, especially since climate experts anticipate major storms will be more common moving forward.

Is now the time for smart grid?
The need for large-scale resiliency upgrades could make this an ideal time for power companies to invest in smart grid capabilities. Through advanced network systems, media converters, power storage architectures, automation infrastructure and data distribution solutions, smart grid provides a much more resilient network that helps utility providers respond to emergencies more effectively. If major upgrade costs are already on the way, it could by a perfect time to get smart grid projects going, not just in New York City, but in any location facing a need for more reliable power delivery.

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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