PGE's future-proof new ops center gets a look

PGE's future-proof new ops center gets a look ...

When you flip the light switch or turn up your thermostat, you expect the juice to plummet. It's as simple as that.

In a nutshell of distributed power generation and storage, intermittent renewable energy, electric cars, smart grid technology, fast-changing wholesale electricity markets, climate change, and ever-present cyber threats, the old model of providing reliable and affordable power is on the upswing.

Nor is the difference between Portland General Electric and its 900,000 customers in Oregon at its integrated operations facility in Tualatin. The futuristic, $207 million building is the utility's new nerve center, connecting management of its vast supply of power facilities, energy storage facilities, transmission and local distribution lines, energy trading, emergency operations, and other mission-critical functions under one, very secure roof.

Inside, the low-slung brown structure does not look alike, apart from a few special features such as a helipad and a large array of backup generators. In real time, employees can monitor and control PGE's entire system and the factors affecting it . Outages in its local distribution system. The status of an auxiliary pump at a distant gas-fired power plant. Whether the sun is going to shine or the wind blow. The world news.

PGE has an obligation to take advantage of its battery array in Salem, tap a diesel generator at a hospital, turn up the thermostats in its customers' homes by a few degrees to lower its air conditioning load during a heat wave, or respond to an unplanned outage. Tualatin is now offering the services.

The building was conceived in 2015, because to the growing awareness of the possibility of a catastrophic Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. It took two years to construct, which was opened in October, and is extremely hard to withstand and assist the utility recover from virtually any natural or man-made disaster.

The new Integrated Operations Center for PGE in Tualatin is putting its mission-critical functions to the test of resilience and security.

Those threats, including their impact on the grid, are evident to anyone who has experienced the Pacific Northwest's recent heat dome, wildfires, ice storm, or this week's surprise snowstorm and the resulting power outages. However, the ability to monitor its equipment and conditions by using sensors, cameras, and an increasing array of remote weather stations, for example, should reduce the risk of utility-caused fires and reduce its response time to any weather-related event or outage.

"When someone tells me it's a one-in-40-year event, I'm beginning to lose faith that they're one in 40," says Larry Bekkedahl, PGE's senior vice president of advanced energy delivery, who hosted a media tour of the building Thursday.

These hazards are becoming more common from nations-states, cyber criminals, or hackers attempting to penetrate utility networks through an enticing set of online doors.

Every day, someone throws the doorknob, said Chris Nolke, the utility's director of cyber security and IT governance. We observe all kinds of probing and attempts. Their hopes is that we will make an operational error.

PGE works with other businesses in the region to understand the evolving nature of these threats, constructing models, and investigating different events to identify and isolate vulnerabilities, mainly rehearsing bad things.

"It's a continuous running race," he said.

The Tualatin facility now has a slew of functions that was previously divided between the PGE headquarters at Portland's World Trade Center and other facilities. The objective is greater integration, greater visibility into operations, and reduced collaboration among teams. That coordination, according to utility officials, will be crucial to delivering the flexible, reliable and clean energy system that lawmakers, regulators, and customers are demanding.

The Integrated Operations Center for PGE in Tualatin is centralizing its mission essential functions to improve resilience and security.

The facility, which is home to a 220 employee and capable of surging to 350, can operate independently water, sewage, backup power, and food for two weeks, and is placed on isolators that would allow it to move 18 inches in any direction during an earthquake.

Even the epidemic has had a significant impact on electricity demand or in industry parlance, the shape of the load throughout the day, according to Dee Outama, senior director of energy supply. In the morning, stay-at-home workers get up, shower, turn on their coffee machines and computers, according to a display monitoring customer demand over a week.

PGE is able to balance this requirement in accordance with its own generation or market purchases, and energy companies are now sitting alongside its power operations group at the construction to improve efficiency.

As the region's utilities transition slowly towards a unified west-wide energy market, this balance act is technically complicated and politically fraught, although it is technically difficult and politically fraught. Especially if that authority is in California, it is possible to use the grid efficiently and provide access to the cheapest energy sources throughout the day. PGE will be monitoring Tualatin, however, because it is dismal and politically fraught. It's technically difficult and politically fraught as utilities are dissatisfied with their transmission assets

We're going to it in bite-size sizes, Outama said.

Ted Sickinger, ; 503-221-8505;

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