The GENIUS Grid
Aug 4, 2021
How ‘smart’ would it be for us to create a grid that has the ability to PREVENT fires/wildfires?
How ‘smart’ would it be if our grid could EARLY DETECT unpreventable grid and non-grid induced wildfires (e.g., lightning, arson, etc.)?
How ‘smart’ would it be if our grid could provide AUTO ALERTS to operators (and First Responders) when a failing grid asset or a fire/wildfire was detected --- ideally before the event truly gets rolling.
How ‘smart’ would it be if our grid could afford vital SITUATIONAL AWARENESS data to operators (and First Responders) during an unpreventable/unavoidable wildfire or public safety event?
How ‘smart’ would it be to create a distribution power grid that could innovatively deliver a proactive ‘always-on’ sensor monitoring canopy that overarches our communities, delivers improved public safety protections, assists with Climate Change goals, and meaningfully reduces our perennial wildfire risk?
Most of this technology capability exists TODAY… the complementary technology is rapidly emerging!
How GENIUS would our distribution grid be if it could simultaneously empower us to:
- PREVENT catastrophic grid asset induced fires/wildfires from occurring?... and/or
- Substantially reduce the Size/Scope/Cost/Devastation of grid asset induced AND non-grid induced wildfires?...and/or
- Dramatically reduce wildfire-related Greenhouse Gas emissions annually to further support our pursuit of important Climate Change initiatives?...and/or
- Elevate Public Safety Protection solutions to reduce the risk of senseless injuries and fatalities?
Why is aggressive investment in solutions that prevent perennial wildfire disasters too commonly stricken from budgets or overlooked, knowing that we will be spending exponentially MORE dollars annually to recover from otherwise preventable disasters? Sympathy-money will never compensate for many losses that will (unnecessarily) occur, due to our prevention investment shortfall.
Let’s Get REAL…Let’s Get GENIUS
Cost-effective technology exists TODAY that will help to PREVENT grid asset-induced fires/wildfires. Whether it be via the proactive detection of manifesting or unfolding intra-grid asset failures, and/or the early detection of downed conductors, the technology exists TODAY to address these serious issues.
Whether it be the proactive identification of potentially dangerous unplanned overload conditions which are now occurring throughout our aging transformer fleets, the technology exists today to reveal these serious realities. And/or, whether it be unique empirical data visibility to proactively reveal otherwise-unknown intra-grid voltage volatilities caused by increasing Distributed Energy Resources, the technology exists TODAY to address these fire/wildfire prevention issues.
So, why have stakeholders not yet provided unilateral funding support for operators to embrace and deploy existing and emerging fire/wildfire Prevention, Early Detection, Auto Alerts, and Situational Awareness sensor technology? How financially helpful will it be if utility operators deploy intra-grid sensor technology that will improve public safety protections, and reduce their corporate liability risk?
Overlooked Realities…Revolutionary Solutions
Let’s use available technology, deployed onto our existing transformer fleet, to deliver a truly GENIUS Grid.
The Distribution grid was deployed 65-100 years ago. This typically under-appreciated foundational segment of our electric grid architecture is directly responsible for safely delivering electricity to ratepayers (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial).
Our Distribution grid architecture is strategically dispersed throughout our communities. In turn, distribution transformers are similarly dispersed. Historically, our transformers have been responsible for only one task – i.e., “step-down” electricity to safe/usable levels within our homes, businesses, institutions, hospitals, manufacturing facilities, etc.
Our 40-50 MILLION (US) distribution transformers have been viewed as low-level workhorse assets. But, that now-antiquated view needs to be replaced with a ‘smart’ strategy.
Our transformer fleets represent a unique pathway to provide game-changing Fire Mitigation, and Public Safety protections.
By strategically deploying fast-to-install intra-grid sensors, we can uniquely leverage our Distribution grids to become more than merely a one directional or bi-directional electricity facilitator. Specially designed sensors deployed onto our transformer fleets will yield critical, reliable, actionable intra-grid Data for use by our operators (and First Responders). By also deploying emerging Fire Mitigation sensors throughout our communities, Millions or Billions of dollars of annual fire/wildfire savings will ensue. All driven via the availability and use of novel, actionable intra-grid data.
Such a pioneering strategy will move us from today’s Smart Grid aspirations, to a comprehensive, versatile, multi-purpose grid-based Fire Mitigation, and Public Safety solution.
This innovative GENIUS Grid approach will result in a first-ever, overarching protective monitoring canopy, spanning our communities. Existing, time-proven/field-proven Advanced Transformer Infrastructure (ATI) will facilitate this cost-effective solution. ATI technology presents the needed foundation to escalate our grid value. And emerging technology tied to ATI will enhance our Fire Mitigation needs.
“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”
There is a GOOD reason for this old adage. Very simply, we can HOPE that fires/wildfires won’t come to our town/city/state. And we can HOPE that if we have already endured one catastrophic event, that it won’t repeat for 100+ years. But…
That type of HOPE is simply naïve, it’s dangerous, and it’s arguably reckless; and it has already proven to be fallible. How many years of fire/wildfire-driven catastrophes, senseless injuries/fatalities, massive post-event cost burdens, and stressed State budgets are required before we FINALLY start thinking outside the box?
Was over $25 Billion in losses due to ONE grid-induced US wildfire event in November 2018 enough to truly get our attention? Could 84 fatalities from ONE grid-induced wildfire event be a good enough incentive?
Does this ‘pound of cure’ aftermath serve us well? Of course not.
Throughout the recent years, we have experienced many grid asset-failure induced wildfire events. And, we have endured countless non-grid induced wildfire disasters (i.e., those wildfires stemming from lightning strikes, arson, etc.). Sadly, there is WAY too long of a fatalities list --that continues to grow-- due to recurring fires/wildfires; catalyzed by grid asset failures and non-grid causes. Noting that hotter, dryer conditions year-after-year continue to set the stage for more (unnecessary) wildfire destruction and catastrophe.
The massive fire/wildfire-related damages, suppression costs, injuries, fatalities, lost tax revenues, State budget burdens, lawsuits, settlements, environmental impacts, etc. are mind-blowing for anyone who will dedicate the time to reviewing the empirical fire/wildfire devastation statistics accumulating annually. These are the ‘pound of cure’ statistics. But cost-effective technology is now emerging to give us the needed ‘ounce of prevention’ assistance.
Undeniably, Fire Mitigation solutions are now vital to many of our communities. Vegetation management will offer some relief, but that one practice alone does not create a ‘solution’. Focusing on the transmission grid will offer some relief, but it will not solve our woes. We need to be more thoughtful and more strategic.
Creating the GENIUS Grid…Pioneering Public Safety & Fire Mitigation Solutions
Time-proven/field-proven Advanced Transformer Infrastructure (ATI) will introduce game-changing uses of our distribution grid. And, emerging fire mitigation sensor technology coupled with ATI will facilitate our achievement of the GENIUS Grid.
While today’s Advanced Transformer Infrastructure (ATI) will empower operators with vital, reliable, actionable intra-grid data visibility, its successor technology will establish the GENIUS Grid. Soon, additional sensor capability added to ATI will expand upon the already available, multiple value propositions being delivered by this cost-effective technology.
Via the innovative inclusion of outdoor smoke detection, ground/surface temperature monitoring, humidity monitoring, ambient temperature monitoring, etc., an enhanced version of ATI will soon provide the foundation for a comprehensive, versatile, innovative Fire Mitigation solution.
The GENIUS GRID… A Smart Grid on Steroids
Specially designed Fire Mitigation sensor packs will be added onto ATI. By innovatively leveraging existing overhead transformer fleet locations throughout our communities, using specially designed fast-to-install intra-grid sensors, this new use of our distribution grids will become GENIUS.
This pioneering technology will produce an unparalleled, simultaneous DUAL CAPABILITY; a) Grid Asset Failure/Fire/Wildfire PREVENTION, and, b) Early Detection PLUS Automated Alerts PLUS Situational Awareness Data to proactively respond to the unavoidable Grid Asset Failure induced fires/wildfires events, AND the unavoidable Non-Grid induced fire/wildfires instances (e.g., lightning, arson, etc.). The result will be a first-ever, proactive, “always on”, outdoor monitoring canopy, facilitated by our distribution grids.
This now-emerging technology will provide a comprehensive game-changing impact for those who are spearheading our necessary Fire Mitigation solutions. Thereby converting the distribution grid from its historic ‘power delivery only’ role, to a vital, proactive Public Safety Protection, Fire Mitigation, and Grid Reliability solution provider.
This Genius Grid will be increasingly capable of safely absorbing our unfolding grid-edge Climate Change initiatives (e.g., DER, EVs, etc.), while simultaneously affording improved Public Safety protections and versatile Fire Mitigation features. In turn, these innovative advancements will substantially elevate the genuine worth and purpose of our vast, well-positioned, existing distribution transformer fleets.
What is smarter than amplifying the value of our legacy grid architecture to serve a new, vital, expanded role throughout our communities? Envision a GENIUS Grid that SAVES LIVES, REDUCES COSTS, LESSENS DAMAGES, etc., versus an under-utilized grid that merely delivers electricity from point to point.
How ‘smart’ would it be to have a distribution grid that is “GENIUS” enough to provide critical and timely intra-grid insights for Preventing Power Outages and Preventing Fires/Wildfires, while simultaneously serving as our outdoor fire/wildfire Early Detection, Auto Alerts, Situational Awareness, Public Safety Protections solution, and simultaneously facilitating safe, effective, sustainable adoption of our unfolding Climate Change initiatives so as to further relieve Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
Expanding our grid usefulness is innovative, thoughtful, strategic, and it is “outside the box”.
Intra-Grid Sensors = Intra-Grid DATA = Faster Responses = FEWER DISASTERS & REDUCED COSTS.
Imagine… Morphing our grids to uniquely facilitate much-needed Public Safety protections, and Fire Mitigation solutions in addition to the standard functionality and purpose of these legacy assets.