Too little, too grid technology in the wake of Hurricane Sandy


It's of little consolation to the 6.1 million or so people still without power across the U.S., but smart grid proponents firmly believe that if we had a smarter grid, natural disasters like that just experienced with Hurricane Sandy would be much less catastrophic in terms of the power outages left behind.

The good news for East Coast residents is that utilities from across the country are working around the clock to restore power. The bad news is that utilities don't know how long the restoration efforts will take, with wait time estimates of up to 10 days.

There's no doubt that Hurricane Sandy tested the grid's reliability and the grid failed miserably, but some industry experts believe that utilities can make their grids more resilient to such disasters with smart grid technology.

Self-healing technology like switches can route power around outages to minimize service disruptions. Grid monitoring via smart meters, smart sensors and synchrophasors support real-time, high-speed data collection to identify and analyze disturbances so utilities can act quickly to avoid widespread outages.

Forecasting of grid conditions can be achieved via distributed energy resource management which uses detailed weather analytics and historical load data so responses can be carried out before an emergency. Better forecasting and management of grid conditions allows for more precision and control, and optimized grid management overall.

Research is also underway into compressed air energy storage which is expected to increase grid reliability. These are just some of the smart grid possibilities that await.

Having said all that, the reality is that most utilities do not have the technology in place to withstand the chaos and service disruptions that come with the likes of Hurricane Sandy. Until they do, I am keeping all those affected by Sandy and the inevitability of future weather events, in my thoughts and prayers.

- Barb