Memphis Light, Gas and Water's (MLGW's) US$13 million smart grid project is unique in that it is an internal distribution automation project without a large customer component. In fact, while most customers might not be aware of the project, the results will be very real for the utility and the customers.

As part of its smart grid project, MLGW installed more than 500 intelligent relays, obtained from ETI/Richards and Digital Grid Technologies, with communications capabilities for the network electric distribution system that serves the downtown and medical center districts. These network protector relays work in conjunction with a variety of sensors to monitor operating parameters of the transformer and protector as well as the environment within the underground vaults.

To enable communication between the smart grid components, fiber-optic and copper instrument cables were installed throughout the area. RuggedCom provided the communications routers for the system. This communications network integrates the new automated distribution equipment in the field with an upgraded supervisory control and data acquisition system and expansion of the current outage management system into a distribution management system.

All of the equipment was installed at the end of 2012, and MLGW is currently configuring the control programs to interpret the data being delivered from the system. When complete, MLGW will have unprecedented knowledge of the condition of its system, remote control of network protectors and a wealth of analysis tools to improve the quality of engineering and operational studies.

Memphis intends this automated distribution management to reduce operating costs. It improves distribution system reliability by providing a fast and coordinated response to grid outages, as well as improved preventative maintenance due to equipment monitoring. Worker safety is improved by reducing the number of trips into the vaults, particularly under dangerous conditions.

For more information, visit www.mlgw.com.