Swinerton In the News

Swinerton Builders: October 28, 2014

PG&E Opens First Smart Electric Control Center in Fresno

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cut the ribbon in Fresno today on the first of three centers in the state designed to manage its electric distribution system through new state-of-the-art technology.

Built over the last 18 months near its Bullard Substation at 1170 E. Bullard Ave., the center will utilize Smart Grid technologies that allows operators to quickly pinpoint outages when and where they occur, often before customers even know about them.

Repair crews can then be directed to the site by way of Geographic Information System technology that shows exactly where PG&E trucks are in the utility's service territory.

In addition, the 24,000 square-foot operations center relies on new smart or "self-healing" switches installed on electric circuits throughout the Central Valley.

The automated switches make it possible to reroute the flow of electricity during an outage and minimize the number of customers without power while restoring others more quickly.

Other monitors in the center's 7,126 square-foot use Google Earth to track fires, fault lines and other weather features so a crew of around 25 operators can work with state agencies and respond more readily to natural disasters when they threaten the electrical system.

"Every day we work to provide our customers with energy that is safe, reliable, affordable and clean," said Geisha Williams, executive vice president of Electric Operations, on inaugurating the new facility. "This state-of-the-art facility, which integrates a wide range of advanced technologies under one roof, gives our grid operators unprecedented visibility into our electric system, which will allow them to help limit outages and restore service to our customers as quickly and effectively as possible."

Prior to the new facility, built by Swinerton Builders of San Francisco, PG&E operators would manage outages from its regional headquarters on O Street in downtown Fresno, using a paper map and thumbtacks to trace downed circuits when customers called in.

In the next few weeks, that center will operate concurrently with the new hub until operators are trained to work with the new system

For now, the $28.5 million control center in Fresno will handle the company's electrical distribution grid from Stockton to Bakersfield.

Next June, PG&E will finish work on a similar control center in Concord to manage the utility's grid in the Bay Area, while another is scheduled to wrap up in Rocklin to monitor everything north of Sacramento.

The company has also planned for emergencies by equipping each center with a generator and UPS battery backup system to ensure a reliable power supply, as well as two independent fiber feeds so Internet data isn't compromised.

However, all three control centers will be able to support or compensate for each other if needed. 

Altogether, they will be able to manage PG&E's more than 140,000 miles of electric distribution system serving nearly 16 million power customers in Central and Northern California.

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