Irene Puts Smart Systems to the Test

In August 2011, Hurricane Irene tested U.S. utilities all along the East Coast. The storm brought winds and heavy rains to the entire Eastern United States, including PECO's service territory in southeastern Pennsylvania. At PECO, the storm was responsible for more than 500,000 power outages from falling trees, flooding and other storm-related damage, but that is only part of the story.

Hurricane Irene left nearly 7 million customers without power in 14 states. Ranking as one of the Top 5 worst storms in PECO's history, Hurricane Irene brought 10 inches (25 cm) of torrential rains and more than 24 hours of winds gusting up to 75 mph (121 kmph). However, PECO was able to immediately react to the storm damage and restore service to nearly all affected customers in just 72 hours — faster than other neighboring utilities — with full restoration completed in just five days.

According to an article at T&D World's Grid Optimization Center of Excellence, PECO's emergency preparedness team quickly recognized the pending hurricane could have a major impact on the distribution system, not unlike Hurricane Isabel, which hit the PECO service territory almost exactly nine years ago. The utility made preparations in advance of the storm, secured and scheduled crews, staged materials and configured the grid to best tolerate outages....