With the aid of a U.S. Department of Energy stimulus grant, PJM and 12 member transmission owners are installing more than 80 additional high-tech monitoring units called phasor measurement units or synchrophasors.

The results will improve operators' visibility of the grid and strengthen reliability.

"It's like moving from an old black-and-white TV to a wide screen HD TV," said Terry Boston, PJM president and CEO. "A more detailed, clearer picture of the system at any given moment allows us to more easily detect over a wide area and avoid problems on the transmission system so that we can move the maximum amount of market transactions safely."

Synchrophasors provide more precise data at a much faster rate. Voltage and current at a given location can be measured more than 30 times per second. Traditional technology takes measurements every four seconds. Data are time-stamped with signals from global positioning system satellites, enabling measurements from different locations to be time-synchronized and combined to create a detailed, comprehensive view of the transmission system.

Under the new program, 12 PJM transmission owners will install phasor measurement units in substations in 10 states (Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia). The PJM system has just under 20 phasor measurement units in place already.

The $27.8 million program will be completed over a three-year period. Each of the 12 transmission-owner companies will receive a portion of the $14 million Department of Energy matching funds grant to install and configure the phasor measurement units at their sites. The department and PJM recently executed the final agreement for the grant.

The transmission owners who are part of this project are: Allegheny Power, American Electric Power, Baltimore Gas & Electric Company, Commonwealth Edison, Dominion Virginia Power, Duquesne Light Company, FirstEnergy Corp., PECO, Pepco Holdings, Inc., PPL Electric Utilities, Public Service Electric & Gas, and Rockland Electric. Collaborating on the project are Virginia Tech, Quanta Technology and the Electric Power Group.