Posted on December 29, 2016

Year in Review: New Tools, Innovation Help Position PG&E for the Future

By Tracy Correa Lopez

From embracing new technology such as drones to planning for the grid of the future — PG&E is working hard today to prepare for the energy landscape of tomorrow.

In 2016, the company launched innovative pilots to better integrate distributed resources and it is working with new technology to help improve restoration and response following a major earthquake.

Earlier this year, PG&E crews relied on a new innovative work method to help upgrade power lines more safely and efficiently in the East Bay.

“What excites me the most is that energy companies like PG&E can be true innovators and can really lead the way in helping to prove how we’re going to run the grid of the future,” said Russ Griffith, who works at PG&E’s Applied Technology Services facility in San Ramon.

Here are just a few examples of how PG&E is relying on innovation and technology to better prepare the company and its customers for the future:

  • In June, PG&E staged a companywide exercise that tested technologies that could offer early warning and speedy restoration after a major earthquake. The company used its earthquake damage-modeling system DASH — which stands for Dynamic Automated Seismic Hazard — to generate rapid, facility-specific damage estimates that help prioritize assessment and repairs.
  • PG&E is also one of a handful of U.S. utilities with Federal Aviation Administration permission to testing drones to inspect facilities. Inspecting the nation’s largest, investor-owned hydroelectric system isn’t easy due to their locations in treacherous terrain and hard-to-access locations and the drones have proven beneficial. The first test was done in the Sierra Mountains at PG&E’s Balch 1 Powerhouse, high above Fresno.
  • The company launched multiple technology demonstration projects in San Jose to advance integration of distributed energy resources, or DERs, such as solar and battery storage. PG&E is teaming up with GE, Enphase Energy and SolarCity to install and test smart inverters and battery storage systems for private solar customers. The projects are aimed at unlocking the benefits of the grid.
  • Earlier this year, PG&E crews relied on a new innovative work method to help upgrade power lines more safely and efficiently in the East Bay. Crews routinely use helicopters to upgrade power lines and still towers throughout the service area, but using a drill-powered hoist helps complete the job more safely and efficiently than ever before. With this new method, crews down have to climb every tower and can work from sky chairs while upgrading power lines in residential areas. Projects like these are helping PG&E deliver safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy.
  • At the PG&E there are a lot of tools — an estimated 30,000 in all. And every instrument in PG&E trucks, vehicles or on an employee’s tool belt must be tested. At the company’s Applied Technology Services facility in San Ramon is where the company’s most innovative work happens. A 12-member team here is responsible for calibrating the equipment used by the men and women who help provide safe, reliable gas and electric service to millions of customers.

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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