ComEd switches on smart substation in Chicago

Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) completed digital upgrades to a substation that will help improve reliability for nearly 28,000 ComEd customers on the South Side of Chicago.

The Wallace smart substation, located in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, uses smart grid technology to reduce the frequency and duration of power outages.

The substation improves ComEd‘s ability to monitor the electrical system and respond quickly to potential issues, rather than reacting to problems after they occur. The Wallace smart substation is equipped with sensors that can help prevent power outages by analyzing up to 1,500 pieces of information every two seconds and can alert ComEd system operators when, or even before, problems arise.

“Because of the smart grid law, we are making the investments needed to create a 21st century electrical system,” said Terry Donnelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ComEd. “Our approach addresses the complete substation. We upgrade all the electro-mechanical devices to microprocessor technology and install advanced equipment diagnostics. This will dramatically improve our ability to constantly monitor the system, identify potential issues and keep them from becoming problems.”

The Wallace facility is the first substation to be transformed into a smart substation under the smart grid law enacted by the Illinois General Assembly in 2011. ComEd will transform 10 substations into smart substations over the next five years.

Features of the facility include:

·      An “Intelligent Substation Dashboard” that provides information on the overall health of the substation components and communicates directly to ComEd when something is wrong.

·      Digital technology that makes it easier for ComEd to identify fault locations so that crews can be sent more quickly and directly to problem areas.

·      Technology that will help both customers and ComEd maximize the value of smart meters. Smart substations receive voltage data from the meters, which enables ComEd to better monitor, manage and respond to system issues. This connectivity also allows ComEd to view historical trends related to energy use and system performance, which will help the company plan for and manage during periods of extreme heat.

As a result of the smart grid law, ComEd is investing $2.6 billion over 10 years to improve its infrastructure and add smart technologies, bringing benefits to customers throughout northern Illinois.

Improvements in 2012 included:

·      Installing over 470 distribution automation devices, or “smart switches,” which avoided 82,000 customer interruptions last year

·      Replacing or treating more than 464 miles of underground residential cable — a 100 percent increase over previous years

·      Replacing over 46 miles of mainline cable — around four times the annual average

·      Assessing over 8,000 manholes and refurbishing more than 4,500

·      Replacing or reinforcing more than 2,700 wood poles.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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