For example, SDG&E is deploying a new voltage stabilizer called a "dynamic VAr device" on a circuit with a large solar array that is already causing voltage fluctuations on the grid. The new device will level out the voltage drops caused by the fluctuating solar generation, thus preventing potential power quality problems. SDG&E also installed five batteries in 2012 – three small units in the community and two large units at SDG&E substations – designed to provide power and support the grid when the output from renewable sources fluctuates or becomes temporarily unavailable.
SDG&E also has embarked on a condition-based maintenance program that can extend the life of valuable infrastructure by remotely "sensing" potential problems and alerting utility crews when maintenance is needed. SDG&E has installed these sensors on 75 percent of substation transformers and has used them to detect several problems before damage occurred to these million-dollar pieces of equipment. This not only saves money and reduces maintenance trips in the field, it can prompt repairs to vital infrastructure before they fail, which enhances electric grid reliability and safety.
SDG&E in late 2012 launched a new Outage Management System that leverages the utility's 1.4 million smart meters and other smart grid technology to speed up the detection of power outages and help restore electricity to customers faster than ever before. By combining the capabilities of this system and the advances described above and continuing to install new smart grid technologies, SDG&E will create a safer, more efficient and greener energy system for San Diego residents.
All these efforts are aimed at transforming older infrastructure into a new, more versatile, "self-aware" energy grid that is able to sense and respond to real-time information faster to enhance reliability and make the system more sustainable overall. The "self-healing" aspect of the grid is a key element of SDG&E's overall smart grid deployment effort, which is one of the most ambitious in the nation and consists of more than 60 separate initiatives for the benefit of the region.