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October 30, 2020 Power
Power
Modernizing Your Grid? Four-Stage Process Can Help Utilities Understand What’s Next

With decades of experience working with utilities throughout the United States in modernizing their grids, Ulteig has built a strong understanding of the process that utilities should consider when planning a modernizing project.

In “Grid Modernization Cycle,” the grid modernization team at Ulteig has boiled down the modernization process into four key stages (view the infographic here):

1. System Evaluation and Framework Design

2. Communication Network and Data Management

3. Tech Solutions and Field Implementation

4. Data Analytics Processing

By incorporating these four stages into your next grid modernization plan, Ulteig believes utilities will see more comprehensive plans, and more success in implementing those plans.

Ulteig developed this life cycle process specifically for utilities that are just getting started and don’t know where to start. Therefore, the first step is to conduct an evaluation. If the utility is comfortable with stages 1 and 2, then Ulteig is fully capable starting with them at stage 3.  The grid modernization process is flexible and designed to accommodate each unique utility within a common framework.

In stage 1, the Ulteig process invites utilities to identify its unique needs and to prioritize high-risk/high-priority needs in comparison to lower level needs and nice-to-haves. With a thorough evaluation, which anticipates future demands on a grid, a framework design can be developed.

While all utilities are unique, they do share some common goals when it comes to modernizing their grids. Based on the experience of Ulteig’s grid modernization team, these common goals typically include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Creating more reliability and resiliency for customers
  • Keeping electrical costs affordable
  • Providing a secure source of electricity
  • Incorporating goals to reduce carbon emissions over time
  • Creating a responsible process to transition to cleaner energy while providing reliable service
  • Optimizing an electrical system to drive more cost efficiencies while delivering higher quality

Because customers, towns, cities and states are more dependent on uninterrupted electricity than ever before, it’s critical that electrical distribution systems are prepared to keep up with rapid industry changes and an increasingly decentralized grid. Anticipating change and the rate of change is a key question that today’s utilities need to ask themselves as they evaluate their power grids. For example: Is your company prepared for solar, energy storage, and other distributed energy resources to be installed on your grid? With promising advances in hydrogen and fusion power, does your grid have the flexibility to accommodate new energy sources in the future.

“We’re at the stage where we need to think beyond typical upgrades and maintenance,” said Jason Hall, an Ulteig grid modernization senior engineer. “We need to anticipate larger changes ahead, such as two-way power flows, where customers can sell their excess electricity created through solar installations back to a utility, or the anticipated growth of electrical vehicles, including 18-wheel trucks, or a day when all homes will rely on electrical power to heat their homes, rather than non-electrical forms of heat, such as natural gas.”

After stage 1, the Ulteig grid modernization process incorporates robust communications systems, technology solutions and field deployments, and a data management system that allows utilities to better understand how efficiently their updated grid systems are operating.

“This is a continuous process,” Hall added. “Utilities are never just done with modernizing their grids. Your utility may presently be in stage 2 or stage 3, but eventually, you’ll return to stage 1, which calls for a time to evaluate how previous investments have paid off, and how you can more cost effectively invest in grid modernizations in the future. In addition, as technology continues to develop, it is important to have an ongoing plan in place that revaluates the system’s state.”

By implementing Ulteig’s approach, utilities will realize these benefits:

  • More reliability for its consumers
  • Grid resiliency against major system events
  • Secure against cyber-attacks
  • Grid visibility through increased data acquisition
  • Grid adaptability to new dynamic loads
  • Accessible for prosumers who install distributed energy and energy storage resources

Power Up Your Grid Mod Efforts. Ulteig offers one of the most talented grid modernization teams in the United States. They have decades of experience that they can leverage for your next project and what makes our team even more unique is most of that experience is at utilities so they better understand you. To receive a consultation, contact Brian Sharpe, Market Director-Power, at brian.sharpe@ulteig.com.

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