Converting Power Lines to Smart Wires: Increasing the observability and control of the transmission network

by Frank Kreikebaum, Jerry Melcher, & Julie Coullard
Smart Wire Grid, Inc.

in Electricity Today

The North American power grid has evolved into a connected set of four major interconnections delivering low-cost and reliable energy.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the real price of electricity has dropped by a factor of 45 over the last 120 years in the United States.  Meanwhile, a study published by the Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solutions reveals that, from 2000 to 2009, electricity was available to U.S. customers more than 99.9 percent of the time.

Ongoing innovation is required to continue delivering low-cost and reliable electricity.  Recent initiatives to increase the intelligence and control of the power system have transformed planning, operations, and maintenance.

These efforts are continuing by converting existing transmission lines from uncontrollable, unobservable assets to Smart Wires, an asset able to observe and control power flows.  This new Smart Grid technology was developed collaboratively with U.S. utilities.

At the moment, the new technology has been deployed on three transmission lines belonging to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Southern Company power systems.

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Smart Grid News: Smart grid? How about smart wires?


Smart Wire Grid sells a device that clamps onto transmission lines to control the flow of power. Originally developed at Georgia Tech, the technology can monitor and even help redirect power flow. Once a problem has been studied at one location, the devices can be moved to other lines.

Skeptical? The idea has enough merit that Tennessee Valley Authority is piloting it and Southern Company is about to start tests. – Jesse Berst

In the TVA pilot, the Smart Wire system is installed on a 161-kilovolt transmission line near Knoxville, Tenn. The technology consists of an array of distributed series reactance units (DSRs) that attach to a transmission line. As the company explains it, the units limit the electrical current flow on the line by injecting inductive reactance. The DSRs can be operated autonomously or with full operator control and provides distributed line sensing and monitoring.

“The technology offers our transmission grid planners and operators a new tool that helps address a wide range of issues facing TVA today,” said Rob Manning, EVP and Chief Energy Delivery Officer for TVA. “The number of challenges that transmission system owners must meet increases every year. We are asked to improve grid reliability, facilitate efficient electricity markets along with integrating renewables. We think Smart Wire technology will help us do this.”

The units will be monitored for a year by the DOE’s Advanced Research Program Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) to verify performance.

Original article.