Resiliency of the grid is one of the most popular topics in the electric industry today. This concept made headlines in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which caused extraordinary damage to Puerto Rico’s electric grid resulting in the longest sustained outage in U.S. history. Lack of resilience became the go-to phrase to describe Puerto Rico’s grid. Here in northwest North Carolina, what does grid resiliency mean for you?
Resiliency is many things: it’s reliability in your electric service, it’s our ability to efficiently restore your power, it’s being able to meet the demands of new technology and it’s how we serve you with various generation sources without skipping a beat. Ultimately, resilience is how we deliver on our promise to improve the quality of life for our member-owners.
A resilient electric grid begins with a system that’s designed and built to withstand high winds, powerful storms, cybersecurity threats and other disruptions that could result in outages. A resilient grid is also flexible and adaptable by allowing different types of generation—such as wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, coal and hydro - to seamlessly work together to provide you with safe and reliable power. The way our systems react to advancements in technology—from demand response investments to serving the needs of electric vehicles - all factor into the resilience of our grid.
Resiliency is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year task. Whether it’s the power lines, substations or generation facilities on our grid, it takes proactive maintenance and investment in system improvements to keep them running smoothly. With thousands of consumers without power for months, the lack of resiliency in Puerto Rico’s power grid wasn’t solely caused by hurricane damage; it was the result of years of neglect in taking care of their system and preparing for a worst-case scenario.
In a similar way to how we maintain our vehicles with regular oil changes, inspections and tire rotations, a grid must also be properly maintained. For example, throughout the year, we regularly conduct pole and line inspections. Our goal is to find a problem before it becomes one. For example, if we find a weak pole that has damage from termites, we replace that pole. Doing so ensures that pole is as strong—or as resilient—as it can be.
Maintaining the grid occasionally requires upgrading entire sections of power lines and supporting systems such as substations. Our current $40 million system upgrade between Ashe and Watauga counties is the largest system upgrade in our history. It’s a perfect example of removing old lines and replacing them with new power lines designed to withstand even higher winds and more ice, as well as provide increased capacity to meet the power needs of our mountain communities for the next 50 years.
In the dictionary, resilience is defined as “the ability to bounce back, recover quickly and go back into shape or position after being stretched.” When it comes to providing you, the members of Blue Ridge Energy, with resilient service, this is what we work toward—day in and day out!