Distributed automation

Resilient and reliable solutions to reduce outages

Distribution Automation (DA) – often described as a "self-healing grid" – is technology that provides real-time monitoring and control of our distribution circuits to help us detect outages more quickly and address them faster and more effectively. While not all power interruptions can be immediately healed, per se, DA does give us a way to greatly reduce their impact on our system and for customers. It also means PSE can dispatch personnel to an isolated section of the system to minimize their inspection time and locate problems quicker.

How it works

When a power outage occurs in a DA-enabled area, the system can pinpoint the source of the problem, isolate the fault to the smallest section possible, and restore power to un-faulted sections. Given the prevalence of falling limbs and trees throughout our service area, DA offers a tangible, measurable benefit for our customers.

Here's a basic description of the process:

The location of a fault (outage) is determined based on sensors on the electric system. Once detected, DA technology uses a series of "reclosers" to automatically operate switches on both sides of the faulted equipment to isolate it from the rest of the system. This feature also can help electric crews locate the trouble spots more quickly – or even eliminate the need for a physical inspection. After the fault has been isolated, the DA system re-energizes the un-faulted sections using power from neighboring electrical lines.

How we're deploying it

Eventually, DA technology will be utilized broadly across our service area. For now, we're concentrating our installation efforts on circuits that have, historically, suffered the highest number of outages (e.g., Kenmore, Chico, and Fernwood). Since 2016, PSE has completed work on 111 circuits, more than doubling the number of completed projects from year to year. In highly populated, urban areas, we've seen this technology protect our customers from over 200,000 hours of outages.

Not all of our substations are advanced enough to accommodate DA, but we’ve worked as quickly as possible to address this issue and other challenges posed by older infrastructure.