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San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) says it is installing several smart grid technologies on the electric grid in the San Diego region in order to create a more resilient and responsive energy network for local residents. These technologies include wireless sensors that automatically detect outages and other problems on the electric grid, as well as devices to integrate renewable energy. In many cases, the revamped grid will even be able to use information to "heal" itself remotely or sense problems before they occur, the utility adds.

By using a broad-based wireless network provided by San Diego-based On-Ramp Wireless, the utility's fault detectors immediately send alarms to grid operators if a problem occurs anywhere along the power lines. SDG&E has installed 2,000 of these devices throughout the region and intends to install 10,000 by 2017.

In addition to enhancing reliability and reducing outage times through these wireless sensors, SDG&E says the automation of the electric grid  more efficiently integrate renewable energy onto the system. According to the utility, the smart grid is designed to counter the highly intermittent nature of renewable energy sources through new technology that senses and accounts for any variability in near-real time.

For example, SDG&E is deploying a new voltage stabilizer on a circuit with a large solar array that is already causing voltage fluctuations on the grid. The new device will level out the voltage drops caused by the fluctuating solar generation, thus preventing potential power-quality problems. SDG&E also installed five batteries in 2012 - three small units in the community and two large units at SDG&E substations - designed to provide power and support the grid when the output from renewable sources fluctuates or becomes temporarily unavailable.

SDG&E also has embarked on a condition-based maintenance program that can extend the life of infrastructure by remotely "sensing" potential problems and alerting utility crews when maintenance is needed, the utility adds. SDG&E has installed these sensors on 75% of substation transformers.

In late 2012, SDG&E launched a new outage management system that the utility says leverages the company's 1.4 million smart meters and other smart grid technology to speed up the detection of power outages and help restore electricity to customers faster than ever before.

"San Diego's electric grid is becoming one of the most advanced and reliable energy systems in the nation," says David Geier, vice president of electric operations at SDG&E. "The grid can respond immediately to outages and is increasingly resilient to events, while being more sustainable overall through the integration of clean energy. We are proud to be implementing these innovative smart grid technologies for the benefit of San Diego residents."




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