Con Edison has a 'smart' solution to power outages
by Holly Tsang
Jul 13, 2010 | 892 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With all the power outages in Queens and Brooklyn caused by the recent heat wave, New Yorkers are once again demanding to know how Con Edison will better serve its 3 million customers moving forward.

Con Ed's response is a smart grid system, which uses several technologies to foster two-way flow of energy and information between customers and utilities, more easily integrate greener energy resources into the electric system, and find and fix problems on the grid faster.

“Our goal was to create a communications tool that simplified the complexities of smart grid,” said Marie Berninger of the company's Third Generation Systems of the Future Department. “We wanted to show how elements such as intelligent grid systems and solar energy fall into our vision of smart grid.”

Con Ed was awarded $181 million in stimulus funds last year by the Department of Energy. In August, an 18-month, $6 million pilot program was launched in the northwestern Queens neighborhoods of Woodside, Sunnyside, Astoria, and Long Island City.

The neighborhoods were chosen because they presented a fair mix of residential, commercial, and industrial usages, and because Con Ed has a training facility in Long Island City.

According to Sara Banda, a spokesperson for Con Ed, 1,300 of 1,500 smart meters have been installed thus far. The smart meters are similar to current meters except that they allow for two-way communication: customers can monitor their energy consumption, as can Con Ed, allowing the company to anticipate spikes in energy usage.

“Both the company and customer would have more information,” said Banda. She added, “In the future, if a customer has an outage in their home, we would know without the customer having to call us.”

The pilot also includes plans to install one or two electric vehicle charging stations, which will be tested on Con Ed property.

Asked if the pilot neighborhoods were less susceptible to the blackouts that plagued other areas last week, Banda said that because not all meters have been installed and much information is still unavailable, it would be impossible to figure out the correlation until after the pilot's conclusion.

“This project in Queens is a foundation for a system-wide smart grid,” said Banda. “We are testing how these technologies function individually and together, and ultimately it's about enhancing reliability and communication with our customers.”

To see an animation on how smart grid works, visit Con Edison's website.

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