GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Consumers Energy says the company is taking steps to improve the state’s power grid, investing $100 million to upgrade high-voltage lines.
In a release, Consumers detailed the projects it has planned for the year, including rebuilding nearly 40 miles of high-voltage lines, rehabilitating the pole-top equipment on more than 64 miles of high-voltage lines, replacing 750 poles and adding new technology to help isolate outages.
In all, this year’s projects alone are expected to affect about 130,000 customers.
“What we’re doing with these investments is really proactively trying to fix potential problems before they result in a power outage,” Consumers Energy spokesperson Josh Paciorek told News 8. “Because it’s not lost on any of us that at Consumers Energy, our No. 1 job is to deliver power.”
Consumers Energy has about 90,000 miles of power lines stretched across the lower peninsula, but fewer than 5,000 miles are high-voltage lines.
An outage on a low-voltage line can take out power for a block or two, while an outage on a high-voltage line can take out power for multiple neighborhoods. Paciorek compared the difference between high- and low-voltage lines to residential roads.
“If you leave your home to go to the local grocery store, a local farmer’s market, you’re usually taking local roads, rural roads, smaller roads that have less traffic. We think of that as our low-voltage distribution system that delivers power directly to your home or businesses,” Paciorek said. “The high-voltage distribution part of our power grid is like our highways where you have a lot of cars. … It’s really the backbone. Power is not getting to homes and businesses without a reliable, resilient high-voltage distribution system.”
The $100 million investment announced Monday is part of a five-year, $5.4 billion Electric Reliability Plan to prevent future outages and limit outage impact. That includes everything from tree-trimming, tech inspection and upgrading to new tools.
“We have a new piece of technology called automatic reclosures,” Paciorek said. “Basically, it helps isolate an incident or a power outage along one line, and it will automatically, within a couple of seconds, try to go find power from another source. It’s not a permanent fix, but it’s going to keep the power running to as many houses as possible while our crews try to fix the problem.”
Paciorek said the utility has adopted a forward-thinking philosophy to prepare for what’s ahead.
“These weather events are getting more severe, and we’ve been noticing it for several years,” Paciorek told News 8. “In order to continue to deliver reliable energy to all of our customers, we’re going to need to build a more resilient grid that can handle these more frequent, more severe weather events.”