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Less than a year after PPL Electric Utilities completed its smart grid pilot project, the company says its customers in Dauphin and Cumberland Counties, Pa., are already experiencing a 38% improvement in service reliability, meaning fewer power interruptions and shorter outage duration.

The three-year, $38 million project, supported by a federal stimulus grant, involved installation of hundreds of automated devices along 50 local distribution circuits serving about 60,000 customers. It also included upgrades to 10 area electric substations across 150 square miles and development of a dedicated, secure communications system.

“We’re encouraged by the early success of the PPL smart grid in the Harrisburg area,” says David Bonenberger, vice president of distribution operations. “We’re implementing a stronger, more modern distribution system to better serve our customers for years to come.”

The Harrisburg-area project began with an application for a federal stimulus grant in 2009 and a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy in spring 2010. It was considered a pilot to collaborate with industry partners and demonstrate the benefits of advanced technology.

As a result of the Harrisburg-area reliability improvements, the utility says plans were developed to expand deployment of distribution automation in other areas of its service territory over the next five years, beginning with a $10 million investment this year in the Poconos region.

The broader project also includes a new distribution management system (DMS), provided by Alstom Inc., which will serve as the “brain” of the modernized delivery to help the utility more effectively manage outages. Installation will be completed in 2014.

Under the five-year plan, the utility has committed $100 million for smart grid deployment. All of the company’s customers will be served by automated circuits by the end of 2018. PPL says this year’s Pocono smart grid project will improve the reliability of electric service to 70,000 customers in Monroe County.






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