Smart Cities Flex their Power with Edge Computing, Digital Tech

Smart power systems are breathing new life into outdated electrical infrastructure. Centralized management, monitoring, and maintenance enable utility companies to lessen the frequency and impact of power outages, while improving response times and reducing operating costs.

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Image credit: ABB

The future of the power grid hinges on smart systems, edge computing, and virtualization. The demand for electrical energy is increasing, with the rise of industrial digitalization, developing economies, and electric vehicles. The growth of renewable energy is changing the grid as well, and energy companies are finding ways to transform clean energy, such as solar power, into usable electricity.

Intel solutions partner ABB is right in the thick of it. The Swiss company, now largely owned by Hitachi, is keenly focused on developing new technologies that simultaneously increase flexibility of the power grid, while improving security and reliability.

Substation Upgrade

ABB has developed the ABB Ability Smart Substation Control and Protection SSC600, powered by Intel® Xeon® Processors. The SSC600 provides energy engineers with a single point for security and control within a substation. Engineers can detect, locate, and isolate faults for improved reliability. It supports multiple protection schemes and the integration of intermittent renewables.

The SSC600 allows the provider to consolidate multiple relays into a single device. Measurements from several bays are digitized near the source and sent to the SSC600, which handles the control and protection functions for the entire substation. The centralized system reduces network complexity and simplifies updates.

The system can be connected to ABB’s Ability Cloud Services, for advanced digitalization of the grid. The cloud provides full network visibility and improved maintenance capabilities, lowering overall costs. ABB’s SSC600 has been deployed in the Noormarkku substation, operated by Caruna, Finland’s largest electricity distribution system operator.

ABB products used by Caruna

Image credit: Caruna

Power to the Smart City

US power grid infrastructure is about 40 years on average, and more than a quarter of the grid is at least half a century old. Some cities are working to update their systems to meet current power demands and to prepare for future needs.

The city of Chattanooga, TN, is ahead of the game. The city’s power provider, EPB, upgraded the power grid in 2009, installing a fiber optic backbone, smart switches and meters, a redundant distribution network, and digital monitoring capabilities across its 600 square mile service area. With integrated communication capabilities, the self-healing smart grid has stabilized electrical service, improved response time during outages, and cut maintenance costs. Rather than dispatching a crew when a circuit breaker flips, for example, techs can often reset the switch remotely.

EPB teamed with S&C Electric to deploy more than 1,200 IntelliRupter PulseCloser Fault Interrupter switches on its 12-kilovolt distribution network and 200 additional switches on the 46-kilovolt transmission system. It also installed IntelliTeam SG Automation Restoration System software from S&C Electric.

The IntelliRupter enables additional segmentation, so fewer customers are impacted by a power outage. It also detects faults quickly, determines if the fault is temporary, and then restores power. If the fault is permanent, the SG Automation software isolates the faulty segment and reroutes power from other sources.

Nearly 175,000 smart meters enable customers to monitor and manage their electricity usage. They also send EBP data related to voltage fluctuations, outages, and other anomalies.

Chattanooga’s smart system has reduced power outages by 55 percent and saved the city $1.6 million in annual operating costs, and automated switching saved an additional $40,000 annually. It was PEER certified in 2015 and earned Gold recertification in 2021.

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