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TECHNOLOGY


New technologies to make the electric grid faster, better, smarter


You might not notice when you


plug in your toaster or your iron, but the nation’s electric grid is undergoing a revolution – a digital revolution. Recent advances in technology are transforming how we make and move electricity, and over time, these changes will greatly improve the efficiency and reliability of electric power. Rural electric co-ops have been


helping lay the groundwork for this transformation with a $68 million “smart grid” research project funded in part by the Department of Energy. A group of 23 co-ops in 12 states deployed an array of new technologies and installed more than 270,000 pieces of equipment. Four years later, we have a better


understanding of how we can move forward to modernize our electric system. Despite the relatively small size of most electric co-ops, we are adopting these new technologies at a faster rate than the larger utilities – in part, because we stand to gain more. Serving rural areas brings special


challenges. Co-op service territories cover 75 percent of the nation’s


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landmass, and co-ops serve some of the country’s most rugged and remote regions. New automation soſtware, however, can minimize these difficulties by enabling the utility to manage parts of the system remotely, saving the co-op – and members – a lot of money. Here are some of the benefits these


upgrades will offer our member- consumers: Reliability. New digital meters


can send information about outages back to the co-op’s operations center. Armed with this information, linemen won’t have to spend nearly as much time looking for the cause of an outage, and restoration times will decrease. In addition, new “smart feeder


switching” can enable co-ops to reroute power during certain outages, thereby minimizing the number of members who lose power. Efficiency. Digital meters can


provide consumers with new data about their energy use. Consumers have discovered safety hazards and other problems, such as a broken well pump constantly running, using


data supplied by their meter. More frequently, however, the data gives consumers a better idea of how they are using electricity – and how they can lower their bills. Digital meters can send electric


use data to the co-op, eliminating the need for meter reading, which saves money. In the case of co-ops that estimate use or have their members report their own use, digital meters will improve consistency and accuracy in billing. New technologies can also help the co-op reduce the amount of electricity lost in transmission. In the longer term, smart grid


technology will change how we use electricity. Armed with more information, consumers will have more control. Tey will be able to generate and store their own electricity, and use that electricity more efficiently! So in the future, remember your


electric co-op helped bring about a digital revolution that made it easier for you to control your energy use and lower your bills.


OKLAHOMA ELECTRIC CO-OP NEWS • FEBRUARY 2015


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