There is an excellent article in the January/February 2012 issue of Electric Light & Power titled “The Revitalization, Modernization of the Aging Transmission System” by Dwayne Stradford. Mr. Stradford does a very thorough job of laying out the needs for each of modernizing the national transmission system. The only item I see missing is how GIS (Geographical Information System) could be beneficial to the modernization of the transmission system. This is also a common issue even with the modernization of the distribution system.
GIS is typically looked at as a fancy mapping system and is treated as a separate entity with all the other components. What GIS can be though, is a data hub which centralizes all the data coming in from the different data sources. So often we have these various technologies working independently of one another and they integrate somewhat to not at all. The efficiency is not maximized because there is not a seamless integration between technologies. GIS creates a seamless environment where the data generated by each technology is interoperable creating efficiency for the end clients. Centralization and interoperability should be our goal with technology as we strive to modernize our electric power grid.
Below is an example of flow of a GIS for an electric distribution system but this same flow can translate to a transmission system. There are 3 categories users of the GIS 1). data sources that feed directly into GIS 2). data sources which not only feed data into the GIS but also receive data from the GIS for clients in different departments in the utility, 3). Strictly end client users.
Not only does GIS allow interoperable communication between internal technologies but it also allows for the consumers to communicate with the utility through the web or applications on smart phones. These applications allow the consumer to pay their bill, get energy savings tips, get information about their outage, report an outage, and possibly share their thoughts about the electric service they are receiving. Utilities need to become, if they are not already, customer focused and to accomplish this efficiently GIS will be at the center.