Faster way to get the power back? Seattle City Light testing one

While West Seattle was spared power outages during this afternoon’s blustery weather (areas north and west of downtown got hit instead), we often aren’t so lucky. And this brings to mind new outage-response technology that Seattle City Light announced earlier this week. While WS isn’t part of the first round of testing, it might not be far behind if the pilot project works out. Ahead, the SCL news release, and what we found out on followup:

Seattle City Light will test automated switching technology in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park that is designed to speed the restoration of service when a power line is damaged.

The equipment is being installed on two feeder lines and is expected to be operational before storm season begins in the fall.

It detects outages, isolates the section of a circuit that is affected and then re-routes power to restore service to the areas that are not directly affected. All of this takes place in a matter of seconds.

“Customers will no longer have to wait for a crew to arrive for the first steps of power restoration to begin,” Energy Delivery Operations Director Bernie Ziemianek said. “And the crews will know where to go to make repairs, further speeding the restoration of service.”

City Light will test the equipment through storm season. If the equipment proves successful, the utility intends to install it on other feeder lines across its service territory.

The equipment, called distribution automation, is part of a larger effort to build a smarter grid in Seattle. Other components include technology to monitor and control substations, advanced meters and components to optimize the delivery of electricity to customers. As City Light installs this technology, the utility will be able to reduce energy losses, improve the integration of electricity generated by solar panels on customers’ roofs, and provide enhanced support for customers with electric vehicles.

“We are using technology to make our distribution system more reliable, our operations more efficient and to make sure that City Light remains the nation’s greenest utility,” said Michael Pesin, who is the architect of the Seattle Smart Grid.

We asked SCL spokesperson Scott Thomsen, who sent the news release to media earlier in the week, about the cost, and which areas would be in line for installation if the north-end test is successful. His reply: “The initial cost for the pilot is $2 million. If the pilot goes well, there is $15.56 million more earmarked for expanding the project into other areas of our service territory through 2020. The approach is to identify circuits based on outage analysis and race and social justice considerations, so those feeder lines that have experienced a higher number of outages would get the equipment sooner.”

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