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STAYING POWER Smart technology quickly ends outages, gives businesses edge to save energy costs

PHOTO COURTESY OF PPL CORP. Linemen install smart grid devices for PPL Corp.

Imagine no more power outages. Ever.

Imagine no more power outages. Ever.

Smart grid technology, a sense-and-adapt method for troubleshooting power problems in the field and on the fly, aims to dramatically reduce power interruptions to customers.

Long, disruptive power outages – such as those the region experienced during Hurricane Sandy and a freak Halloween snowstorm that sent homeowners to friends and hotels and crippled businesses without back-up power generators – could be consigned to the history books.

Smart grid technology – the master network for providing electric service to customers – uses smart meters to keep the juice flowing and the lights on. Smart meters, the tech’s minions, are electronic switching devices in the field designed to reduce and even eliminate long, costly power outages.

“So far this year, smart grid has prevented 58,000 prolonged customer outages … generally restoring power in under five minutes,” said Paul Wirth, director for utility communications for PPL Corp. in Allentown.

Wirth said as technology evolved, so would the rollout and maintenance of devices and upgrades.

Smart meters are devices that sense outages.

“[They] pinpoint the location” and direct information back to the central computer. Switches isolate the damage, reroute power and restore service, Wirth said.

Mandated by Pennsylvania Act 129 of 2008, all large electric utilities are required to install smart meters. The legislation’s goal is to reduce energy consumption and peak-time demand.

Darlene J. Robbins, president of the Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers & Employers Association in Pottsville, said smart grid technology provides more reliability and flexibility to business consumers, especially those in manufacturing.

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