Power outages disrupt the grid and inconvenience the lives of utility customers. In some cases, they can be life-threatening. With volatile weather causing more outages and with power lines aging nationwide, utility companies increasingly rely on technology to save the day.
Cities and towns throughout the United States are utilizing “self-healing technology.” Self-healing technology quickly recognizes when a power outage occurs and reroutes power to restore service faster or avoid the outage altogether. Think about how Google Maps can tell you when there’s an accident ahead and then reroutes you. This technology does the same.
Self-healing technology across the country
Self-healing technology is starting to be installed and used across the country.
In Noblesville, Indiana, Duke Energy is launching a pilot project installing self-healing technology to help repair an aging grid.
“This important work is part of a multi-layered energy grid improvement strategy to help improve electric reliability and resiliency and strengthen the electric grid against severe weather and other impacts,” Duke Energy Government and Community Relations Manager Mark LaBarr told The Hamilton County Reporter. “Making the right investments today means that the energy grid customers and their families depend on will be better, more reliable, and more responsive in the future.”
According to The Hamilton County Reporter, “While a self-healing system can’t repair the physical damage to the power line that a human crew must repair, it can help to limit the number of customers who experience an extended outage because of the damage.”
The technology is also already in Ohio. Duke Energy said that in 2022, the technology prevented 403,461 outages and saved more than 99 million customer minutes in that state. That compares to 165,000 outages and about 20 million minutes saved in 2021.
“We’ve got this software system called distribution management systems. That’s really the key component,” Duke Energy’s Manager of Grid Engineering Mike Simms told WVXU News. “That’s where all the intelligence really lies for all this data that comes back in.”
Funding this upgrade came with a hefty price tag of $100 million in Ohio. The customers mainly finance the bill through their rates. Simms says the investment is worth it because it saves customers from being in the dark.
In Tampa, Duke Energy says the new “self-healing” lines helped 200,000 customers avoid outages last year. Duke says that this new technology covers 34% of their customers in Florida, and their goal is to have 80% using the “self-healing” power lines in the next 10 years.
What utility companies can do to use tech
The technology Duke Energy is using to detect blackouts uses data to help understand where outages are and ensure customers are being saved minutes. In addition, the system uses smart switches to reroute electricity around problems.
Utility customers can look into investing in these systems to help minimize outages, keep customers happy, and keep grids functioning.
Climate change has ravaged power grids across the country, so minimizing outages is a problem most utility companies face. Technology can help offload some emergency repairs and stress on utility workers.
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