Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

PG&E opens $40m smart grid control centre in California

Steve Rogerson
August 25, 2015
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has unveiled a state-of-the-art, $40m electric distribution control centre in Concord, California, to help provide its customers with safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy.
The facility is the second of three new control centres – the other two are in Fresno and Rocklin – that will manage PG&E's more than the 225,000km of electric distribution lines that serve nearly 16 million Californians. The 3500 square metre operations centre will enhance electric reliability and resiliency for PG&E customers throughout the Bay Area and Central Coast by using current and future smart grid technologies.
“Our investment in the Concord centre will strengthen resiliency of the grid, while enhancing electric reliability,” said Geisha Williams, president of PG&E’s electric operations. “Additionally, it increases the flexibility of our system, allowing for broader integration of clean, renewable energy.”
The control centre is just one of many infrastructure investments in Concord and the Bay Area in recent years. PG&E invested more than $170m last year in the electrical infrastructure that serves Contra Costa County, and more than $1.1bn in the greater Bay Area in 2014.
“The city of Concord is excited about this project,” said Concord mayor Tim Grayson. “The distribution control centre is exactly the type of high-tech, cutting-edge facility Concord is encouraging for our community. This investment by PG&E helped create 250 construction jobs and other local, good paying jobs that will provide a strategic service to the delivery and reliability of our region.”
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier added: “I applaud PG&E’s investment to improve the reliability of their service in our area. Locating this centre in Concord will bring jobs to our community and innovative technology to California consumers.”
The control centre has been equipped with systems that support today's current smart grid technology, but will also support future upgrades. A distribution management system incorporates electronic mapping and smart-meter data to help operators pinpoint the exact location of an outage.
Electric operators also played a key role in helping design the nerve centre of the electric grid, helping to design the work stations and technology that they will be using to control the grid every day.
Operators have the ability to control equipment remotely and work with automated self-healing technology that has been installed on electric circuits throughout the Bay Area. These smart switches isolate outages and help reroute the flow of electricity to reduce the number of customers affected by an outage and restore others within minutes.
Constructed to a high seismic standard with redundant data and power feeds, the facility will further enhance PG&E’s disaster resiliency capability. Additionally, the centre has the flexibility to shift operations to the two other regional control centres if support is needed in the event of a major storm or natural disaster.
In 2014, PG&E delivered record electric reliability to its customers for the sixth straight year. Since 2009, the utility has consistently reduced the average duration of power outages, with customers experiencing the fewest number of outages in company history in 2014. Investments in the grid, including the deployment of smart grid technology, played a key role in delivering this performance.
Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in northern and central California.