Originally published in AEPNow
Grid Assurance has never been more ready to meet the needs of a subscriber base that hopes it never has to utilize this unique emergency restoration solution.
Tapping into Grid Assurance’s inventory of traditionally long lead-time energy utility equipment means something has gone very wrong, quite possibly on a large, high-impact scale. But it also means a much quicker, cost-effective recovery is in the cards.
And now, Grid Assurance is marking a milestone in its efforts to meet those emergency needs and ensure grid resiliency. It just recently completed its initial committed inventory for stockpiled, ready-to-deploy transmission equipment, with the arrival of the last three power transformers to complete the asset roster.
“We’re hitting our stride at the right time,” said AEP’s David Rupert, newly named CEO of Grid Assurance, an independent company co-founded by AEP that utilizes best practices in the delivery of cost-effective, time-sensitive and virtually turn-key power restoration solutions. “All utilities have to be on their game from a defensive standpoint, but you also have to put yourself in the best possible position to restore the grid quickly should something catastrophic occur.”
Those catastrophic events can come naturally, via weather calamities, or at the hands of who Rupert calls “bad actors” perpetrating cyber and physical attacks on energy company assets. In either situation, emergency restoration can be lengthy due to historically long lead-times for large, high voltage equipment vital to the electric grid. Grid Assurance steps in from there for its subscribers.
With offerings now including large power transformers, high-voltage breakers, and bushings, Grid Assurance has the critical inventory its subscribers need to fully and quickly recover. Grid Assurance also manages the logistics, maintenance and storage of the equipment. All of that translates to the turn-key nature of the solutions the company offers, and the results are dramatic.
Take, for example, a large transformer. Most likely the longest of the long lead-time inventory items, transformers can take a year – many times longer – to procure in an emergency situation. With Grid Assurance, that turnaround time can be reduced to just a few weeks. This turnaround potential is due to several factors:
- Grid Assurance has sorted out the logistics for every possible shipping scenario to its subscribers, planning the routes and securing all the necessary approvals and permits needed to move by rail, roadway and water.
- Each subscriber has assets stored at indoors, secure, and strategically placed warehouses that are unique to their needs.
- Grid Assurance maintains the equipment on site and has created a system that provides continuous status updates on the health of these key units. Also, Grid Assurance has a “build on demand” plan in place for some of the components more susceptible to maintenance concerns (such as coolers and radiators), in which these “fresh” parts are integrated into the larger unit by the manufacturer while the equipment is enroute.
In addition, Grid Assurance worked with equipment manufacturers to get all items warranted for 30 years. “This was a level of negotiation that had never been done before,” said Grid Assurance COO Jeff Fleeman. “That’s just part of this overall effort to bring subscribers the most certain, rapid and simple recovery solution possible within the electric utility industry. The team has come together to essentially create something that has never existed.”
Rupert noted that, with its committed inventory fully stocked, Grid Assurance will continue working towards increasing participation in an effort to strengthen grid resiliency on a more wide-reaching scale. Grid Assurance is also examining the expansion of its asset list with additional key equipment, possibly including items such as large mobile generators.
“Unfortunately, the question of a large-scale event striking the grid is a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if,’ so it’s important that we work to expand the breadth and depth of our solutions and coverage,” he said.
Affiliates of American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway Energy and First Energy are current owner companies of Grid Assurance™, a limited liability company that offers cost-effective solutions for enhancing transmission system grid resilience and faster access to critical transmission equipment following a catastrophic event.