Mark Donsky, Senior Manager, Product Management
Mark Donsky brings over 15 years of software experience to Silver Spring Networks. Mark previously held director-level enterprise software product management roles at companies such as Coverity and CA Wily Technology. He has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Western Ontario and has completed coursework for a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto.
Q: How does the smart grid help restore service after an outage?
A: Service restoration is one of the most mission-critical processes at a utility. When the lights go out, it’s the utility’s top job to restore service. Many utilities create storm response organizations that are activated when a large-scale outage occurs, and utility personnel immediately jump into their role in that organization.
Without a smart grid, the outage response process relies heavily on partial information and incomplete visibility. For example, SCADA alarms provide visibility into substation outages but don’t pinpoint the source of the outage. Moreover, utilities continue to depend heavily on customer calls to report outages – and they lose valuable restoration time waiting for customers to report outages, especially when outages occur in the middle of the night.
Fortunately, with a smart grid, utilities can take advantage of a variety of specific real-time technologies that help address these limitations. AMI meters play a crucial role in speeding service restoration. They deliver immediate last gasp alarms whenever power is lost and service restoration notifications when service is restored. On the Silver Spring Smart Energy Platform, UtilityIQ Outage Detection System translates these raw smart meter outage-related notifications into actionable information that can help scope the initial outage and, of even greater value, identify nested outages while utility personnel are still at the outage location.
The smart grid also hosts a variety of other powerful technologies that help enable automatic service restoration, more efficient crew dispatch and, most importantly, faster service restoration.
Q: What specific technologies beyond smart meters speed power restoration?
A: Two technologies have emerged as powerful tools in reducing outage duration.
- Automatic switches or reclosers communicate with each other over the smart grid to route around power failure, isolating the outage and restoring service to as many customers as possible within seconds. Many Silver Spring customers leverage the Smart Energy Platform to provide two-way communications to reclosers.
- Faulted Circuit Indicators (FCIs) help pinpoint the location of circuit issues, thereby eliminating the need to manually inspect miles of power lines. Silver Spring offers next-generation FCIs that communicate over the Smart Energy Platform and relay not just outage information but also current and temperature data.
Q: What organizational changes do some of these new approaches demand?
A: Building the smart grid has required utilities to break down walls that used to separate groups such as the metering and distribution organizations. Working together, these groups can be much more effective in responding to outages.
For example, when metering and distribution organizations integrate technologies and data to better inform the outage management system, the utility can detect outages faster and restore service sooner. Silver Spring’s UtilityIQ Outage Detection System makes data integration easy by supporting industry standards such as the Common Information Model (CIM) for key AMI outage-related activities, such as outage notification, service restoration, and remote troubleshooting.
Utilities are already reporting significant benefits in outage response thanks to the smart grid. Most recently, amidst the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, many of our customers reported remarkable service restoration timeframes in their territories, attributing the faster recovery to their smart grid.