Enhancing Grid Efficiency & Resiliency

"At the Irvine Smart Grid Demonstration, our utility, Southern California Edison, is testing the interoperability of key elements of the smart grid, from the transmission level through distribution and into the home."

The demonstration is co-funded by a U.S. Department of Energy federal grant.


The Smart Grid is a highly automated – and increasingly intelligent – electric power system that leverages technological advances in telecommunications, information, computing, sensing, controls, materials and more to enhance the grid’s efficiency and resiliency.

Self-Healing Distribution Circuits: Shorter Outages & Fewer Customers Affected

At ISGD, Southern California Edison (SCE) is testing a self-healing distribution circuit that automatically detects and isolates faults, to help reduce the number of utility customers affected by outages, and to enable faster repairs and service restoration.

The ISGD demonstration features a single, closed loop circuit created by tying together two radial circuits. Four communicating, fault-interrupting switches – known as Universal Remote-Controlled Circuit Interrupters – are positioned to segment the circuit into smaller increments. This design allows for quick identification and isolation of faults, so the utility can continue to deliver power to customers on either side of a fault, reducing the number of customers affected by any fault-related outage.

Because the high-speed, wireless communications automatically alert grid operators to faults – and their approximate locations – repairs can be made more quickly.

“This communications aspect is what makes the difference here,” explains Bob Yinger, a consulting engineer at SCE. In fact, ISGD is the first pilot to employ high-speed wireless communications, and it’s also the first to use multiple fault interrupting circuits.

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Reducing Electricity Consumption by Increasing Grid Efficiency

Electricity consumption can be reduced by 1% to 3% without any change in customer behavior, by operating the grid with greater precision. Supplying power within a tighter voltage range may provide opportunities for energy conservation through a decrease in power consumption by utility customers’ electrical appliances and devices.

Utilities are required to maintain voltage at customers’ meters within a specific range to safely and effectively operate customers’ appliances, and typically power is delivered to homes and small businesses at approximately 120 volts. The voltages may vary depending upon a number of factors, including where a customer is located on a distribution circuit.

At ISGD, we are implementing an advanced monitoring control system to tightly manage voltage. Our Distribution Volt/VAR Control (DVVC) algorithm is designed to dynamically control capacitors to boost voltage only where and when it’s needed. Smarter control of the distribution system helps save electricity.

“The enhanced ability to communicate allows us to regulate voltage better than we could in the past,” says Yinger, a consulting engineer at SCE.

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Substation Automation for Improved Reliability & Lower Maintenance Costs

Substations play an important role on the power grid. This is where electricity is transformed from the higher voltages found on transmission lines to lower levels for distribution to homes and businesses. Substation automation help improves the quality of the link between the transmission and distribution systems and speeds up the response to dynamic system conditions. To avoid unnecessarily replacing existing equipment while still keeping up with changes in technology, we’re looking for next-generation automation solutions that integrate with existing transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Standardization Supports Cost-Effective Reliability

Our goal is to achieve high standards of reliability at the lowest possible cost, both now and over the long term. So we’re experimenting with technologies that are based on the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61850 standard. This “plug and play” approach is expected to support interoperability and compatibility with existing legacy systems.

“Standardization allows us to use multiple vendors and select the best equipment for each job,” says Yinger, a consulting engineer at SCE. “It means we can use the same communications protocol on all devices and get the information we need.”

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