CenterPoint Energy received a $200 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for its smart meter and intelligent grid projects. Of these funds, $50 million is being used to begin building a self-healing smart grid that will use smart meters, power line sensors, remote switches, and other automated equipment to improve power reliability and restoration in greater Houston.
The power outages that have been a fact of life for electric consumers will meet their match with the intelligent grid. Localized outages will be largely self-healing. Most breaks in a power line – a tree limb falling, for example – will be detected and communicated by sensors and the associated event data transmitted using wireless and/or other communications technologies. As a result, power will be re-routed around the break or fault and service continues, virtually uninterrupted, while CenterPoint Energy personnel are dispatched to the repair site.
In the event of larger outages, such as a major storm, the smart grid will first employ self-healing techniques to restore power to as much of the system as possible. Then the damage to the system as a whole is diagnosed and mapped. Using that information, CenterPoint Energy will be able to restore the greatest part of the system in the shortest time and then continue on to full restoration. In many cases, the time to restore power through the intelligent grid in CenterPoint Energy's service area will be a fraction of the current averages.
The initial intelligent grid deployment, covering the area inside Loop 610 the ship channel and parts of north Houston, is expected to be completed in 2014.Frequently Asked Questions:
Will we be able to get our lights back on right away now that we have smart meters?
Smart meters have the ability to automatically notify CenterPoint Energy when your power goes out, which could help us restore power more quickly as well as find out whether the problem requires an electrician to perform work in your home without having to send a CenterPoint crew to your home. CenterPoint Energy is one of the first utilities to use smart meters to report outages, and we continue to test the system. For now, you should continue to call us to report power outages. However, in the future, you’ll be able to sign up to be notified by phone, text, or email when your power goes out and when it has been restored.
CenterPoint Energy has also begun building an “Intelligent Grid” with power line monitoring equipment that will locate power line outages as they occur. This should speed recovery since repair crews won’t have to search for the source of an outage and can begin repairs much sooner. Phase 1 of the Intelligent Grid inside Loop 610 and the ship channel will be completed in 2014. We plan to extend the Intelligent Grid to the rest of the Houston area in later phases.
What is the difference between a Smart Grid and an Intelligent Grid?
As CenterPoint Energy defines the terms, the Intelligent Grid is a component of the Smart Grid. The Smart Grid is composed of the Advanced Metering System (smart meters), Intelligent Grid (power line sensors, remote switches, and other equipment to improve power restoration), telecommunications systems supporting both smart meters and the intelligent grid, and all of the back-office computer systems and interfaces that enable all these systems to communicate and work together.
How will this help CenterPoint Energy respond to hurricane outages?
With the completion of installation of smart meters in 2012 and Phase 1 of the Intelligent Grid in 2014, smart meters, power line sensors, remote switches, and other automated equipment and computing systems will allow the Intelligent Grid to “self-heal” in the event of a major storm to restore power to as much of the system as possible. Then the damage to the system as a whole will be diagnosed and restored according to current practices. In many cases, the time to restore power through the Intelligent Grid could be significantly reduced.
Why are you installing the Intelligent Grid only inside Loop 610?
We plan to prove the benefits of the Intelligent Grid system with this initial deployment, funded in part by $50 million of Department of Energy Smart Grid Investment Grant funds, before, we hope, expanding use of the technology outside the Loop in future years.
How long will it take to restore power, once you have your entire Smart Grid built out?
In the future, the Intelligent Grid’s substation and distribution line monitoring equipment will be able to locate many power outages as they occur. This in turn could speed recovery since repair crews won’t have to search for the location of an outage and can begin repairs much sooner. In many cases, the time to restore power through the Intelligent Grid could be significantly reduced.
When will the “self-healing” capabilities be turned on?
The Advanced Distributed Management System, the computer system which will be the Intelligent Grid’s “brain,” will be completed in 2014, so “self healing” is still a few years away.