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Where Utilities are Making Grid Modernization Reliable and Resilient

February 13, 2024

As energy demands evolve and climate challenges loom large, power utilities are under increased pressure to modernize the grid. To address these pressing needs, Ulteig offers a suite of integrated engineering solutions that lay the groundwork for a more reliable and resilient power system from the outset.

This modernization isn’t just about keeping pace with technological advancements; it’s a crucial measure to strengthen our power systems against the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and other mounting threats to the grid. Leveraging our extensive expertise in grid modernization, we partner with utilities early in the process to ensure a strategic approach to these complex challenges.

Defining Reliability and Resilience in Modern Grids

Reliability in the context of grid modernization is about maintaining or improving outage indices such as SAIDI (System Average Interruption Duration Index), SAIFI (System Average Interruption Frequency Index) and CAIDI (Customer Average Interruption Duration Index).

On the other hand, resilience refers to the grid’s ability to quickly recover and restore power after de-energization events. As Jason Hall, PE, Senior Engineer on Ulteig’s Grid Modernization team, explains, “Wildfire protection will result in more outages when wildfire risk is high, but resilience is ensuring the power is restored quickly after the event instead of requiring hours or even days to come back online.”

Key Pillars of Grid Modernization

In the drive towards a future-proof grid, utilities are concentrating their efforts on critical areas to enhance grid reliability and resilience. By systematically assessing the most pressing risks, such as extreme weather events and the rapid integration of renewable energy sources, they are identifying and focusing on key initiatives that will yield the greatest impact on the grid’s robustness and adaptability for years to come.

Wildfire Protection

The stark reality is that utilities can no longer ignore the risks their infrastructure might pose in starting or spreading wildfires. As Hall notes, “There are plenty of examples where utilities have been blamed for wildfires, resulting in large costs for the utility.” Increasingly, utilities are engaging in extensive wildfire protection initiatives. This may involve replacing protective devices and reprogramming electronic devices within wildfire-prone areas, as well as rebuilding infrastructure with new, safer components and adopting construction practices designed to reduce fire risk.

While necessary, Hall points out that “grid modernization efforts consume a lot of the engineering and operations time, pulling utilities away from projects they would have otherwise been working on.” Ulteig steps in to support these endeavors by dedicating engineering and operations resources to these critical tasks, thereby allowing utilities to focus on their daily work requirements without disruption.

DER Management

“Almost all utilities are struggling in one way or another to manage the Distributed Energy Resource (DER) requests they’re receiving,” Hall says. DERs present two main difficulties: establishing a robust review and processing strategy for applications and keeping pace with the sheer volume of submissions. The latter issue is compounded by the fact that utilities often lack the specialized staff needed for this task and are hesitant to hire due to the potential volatility in DER application rates, driven by changes in legislation.

With extensive experience in system modeling and study for DER projects, Ulteig stands out as a leading partner for utilities navigating these challenges. Our team excels in conducting comprehensive system impact studies (SIS) and other critical analyses required for the approval of large DER projects. Through these studies, we assess various factors such as thermal loading, system voltage, system power factor and the necessity to update protective device coordination. This ensures that utilities can not only accommodate the technical requirements of integrating DERs but also maintain system reliability and efficiency.

Ulteig’s Grid Modernization team is adept at handling hundreds of these applications weekly, ensuring that utilities can effectively manage their backlog without the risk of overstaffing. We bring our deep understanding of the technical aspects, from initial application to final integration, to every DER project. This comprehensive approach helps utilities streamline their DER integration process, enhancing their overall grid reliability and customer service.

Grid Hardening and Modernization Planning

“Utilities understand that their current grid and business practices will not adequately handle what they see on the horizon,” says Hall, noting an increased focus on grid hardening and developing comprehensive smart grid and grid modernization plans. Utilities are expanding their strategies beyond wildfire protection and DER management to include specific hardening projects. These include strategic undergrounding, the upgrade and installation of protective devices and the assessment of advanced grid management programs such as automated distribution and asset management.

As the scope of engineering and operations budgets expands to accommodate these initiatives, Ulteig has been instrumental in assisting utilities to not only justify these financial outlays, but also in securing necessary approvals. We recognize the importance of clearly communicating the utility’s direction and vision, thereby facilitating executive understanding and support.

Shaping the Future of Power Utilities

With specialized knowledge in engineering and operations, Ulteig effectively addresses the complexities of grid modernization projects. Our dedicated support enables utilities to present a coherent vision and strategy, facilitating executive buy-in and operational support for these critical advancements. “The budgets of engineering and operations

departments are growing with these additional needs and projects,” Hall says, “and Ulteig has been able to help utilities justify and get these budgets approved.”

Our work with CORE Electric Cooperative is a prime example of our approach to critical grid modernization projects. Ulteig has designed several underground projects for wildfire mitigation and has developed 12 new feeders to power a new substation. This collaboration has not only enhanced CORE’s infrastructure resilience against natural disasters but has also ensured a reliable and scalable power supply to meet the growing energy demands of their service area.

Gain an Experienced Partner in Grid Modernization

The integration of modernization efforts in the power utility industry is not just about adopting new technologies, but about creating systems that are reliable in the face of routine demand and resilient against extraordinary events.

For utilities looking to navigate this complex landscape, Ulteig offers the insight, services and partnership required to pursue grid modernization efforts with confidence.

Leverage Ulteig’s expertise and experience during this transformative era. To learn more about how we can support your initiatives, reach out today.

  • Grid Modernization

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