Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Consumers Puts In Power Traffic Cops, Buries Lines, Installs Iron Poles To Harden Grid 

05/14/24 12:52 PM By Team MIRS

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 05/13/2024) Consumers Energy officials said Monday the company is installing devices on the Michigan grid that would act like traffic cops with power to be able to isolate outages into a smaller area and keep the power on for more people. 


The 3,000 line sensors and 100 automatic transfer reclosers, known as ATRs, are costing the utility nearly $24 million. The integration of smart technology would help sense where the problem happens and reroute power from another source to closer to the problem area. 


"ATRs and line sensors are both instrumental when storms strike and cause outages. They will be a big part of our reliability future and keep the power on for our customers," said Consumers Vice President of Electric Engineering Greg Salisbury. 


He said the ATRs have already been installed on some grids in the past few years and have helped isolate outages. 


They work by allowing power to come from another grid through the gateway device, which is then stopped by another device prior to the area where the damage occurred.  


Consumers Energy Vice President of Electric Operations Chris Laird said the installation of the devices was an important part of hardening the electrical grid in the state and was part of the utility's "Reliability Roadmap" that had the goal of restoring power to customers within 24 hours or less.  


The utility plan was filed with the Michigan Public Service Commission in September 2023. 


Other portions of helping increase the reliability of the grid by the utility include a pilot program of burying 10 miles of electrical lines in Genesee, Livingston, Allegan, Ottawa, Montcalm and Iosco counties. The areas have dense tree coverage responsible for frequent and long outages during weather events. 


"We can't control Mother Nature, but we can control how we prepare for extreme weather. Burying power lines is just one tool we can use in our growing toolbox to prevent outages from impacting our customers," Laird said. 


Salisbury said burying lines could be good in some areas, but not in others. 


"This pilot will help us learn even more about cost-effective ways to buy lines, allowing us to expand undergounding projects in the future," he said. 


Over the next five years, Consumers said they plan to bury more than 1,000 miles of electrical lines. 


Consumers is also planning to replace 1,000 wooden poles with iron, which are expected to last up to 80 years and resist weather better. 


"Their ability to withstand the elements will protect the power lines and help to reduce customer outages in the future," Salisbury said. 


The first iron poles are going into Kalamazoo, Montcalm and Iosco counties. 


"When the weather is good, you'll see our crews busy at work this year installing poles safely and quickly to make sure we're ready for storms," Laird said.