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Where High Speed Internet Meets Smart Grid

Advanced internet technologies, energy management and the smart grid are coming together in a mid-sized city in South Tennessee.

Tennessee based utility EPB has completed one of the fastest internet pipelines in the world and has activated the first automated switches on its electricity network. The combination constitutes the backbone for a DOE-funded smart grid network that is expected to save the utility and businesses tens of millions of dollars annually.

The utility will compete with providers such as Comcast to offer its existing customers an ultra-high speed internet connection at one gigabit per second, more than 200 times faster than the average US download speed.

The company’s electricity customers could benefit from this infrastructure. The network will serve as the conduit for 80 billion data points on electricity use per year that could help the utility run more efficiently, reduce outages and give customers more control over their electricity expenses.

Power outages cost their Tennessee businesses approximately $100 million a year. This number is expected to decline by 40% in the next 18 months due to the installation of automated switches. A saving of $3 million a year is expected through automated meter reading and will then allow the utility to roll out demand response services.

The company intends to have the first stage of its smart grid installation complete by August 2012, and by the end of December 2012 it plans to have installed 170,000 smart meters equipped with software and communications equipment.

They are replacing manual switches with intelligent switches that can locate and resolve faults. The pulse-closing technology injects a low energy current pulse into an electric line to determine if a fault has cleared. This saves the utility money by reducing wear and tear on substation transformers and other equipment.

The basis of EPB’s smart grid initiative began 10 years ago when the utility found it was restricted from doing automation because it didn’t have communications technology. First EPB entered the telephone business followed by internet services.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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