EPB becomes smart grid testbed to advance power delivery


With support provided by the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE), an effort was launched in 2014 to develop the state of the power grid in Tennessee. [EPB smart grid restores more than 23,000 customer outages]

Together, Oak Ridge staff scientists and EPB are using their expertise to test new technologies, examine the use of microgrids and develop new analytics that will aloe EPB to unlock the power of its smart grid data to improve operations, and use high-performance computing to perform modeling and simulations.

According to a release, ORNL and EPB are learning how to best apply sensors, controls, secure communications, and other technologies allowing a power grid to function more autonomously and reliably as it grows and becomes more complex.

“The sensors installed so far are capturing mostly environmental conditions associated with the distribution of electricity,” said researcher Peter Fuhr of ORNL’s Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate. “We’re not measuring volts and vars or electromagnetic fields, although we could. We’re concerned with what the ambient environment is like today.”

“The testing we’re doing now with these sensors will help us determine which ones make the most sense to implement on a larger scale,” said Jim Glass, EPB’s manager of smart-grid development.

Smart grid funding

EPB states that these efforts are strengthening its network by rolling out smart grid technologies to make its distribution system more robust and improve operations, thanks in part to $111.5 million in stimulus funds awarded by DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. [EPB receives national recognition for excellence in smart grid]

The utility adds that the investment has allowed it to provide continued reliable electric service and respond more effectively to such events.  EPB has estimated that the increased reliability is worth roughly $50 million a year to Chattanooga-area businesses and residents, and that the number of customer minutes lost to power outages has decreased by 50%.