Consumers Energy to install 123 automatic reclosers for reliability improvements

Published on April 07, 2023 by Chris Galford

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Over the course of 2023, Consumers Energy of Michigan intends to install 123 automatic transfer reclosers (ATRs) as a means to improve power outage prevention and overall reliability among its customers.

The announcement, made this week, could end up preventing thousands of outages annually, according to the company, and significantly cut the length of those that do occur. ATRs achieve this by isolating problems on electric lines and transferring power automatically down another route. Consumers Energy already utilizes nearly 470 of these devices on its system, but the newest deployments will target areas most affected by outages in recent years.

“After the February ice storms, we know customers are asking for a stronger and smarter power grid,” Chris Laird, Consumers Energy’s vice president of electric operations, said. “By focusing on tree trimming, upgrading our electric grid, and using automation and other technology to quickly detect and resolve problems, we can drastically improve the electric grid and make it more reliable for all our customers. ATRs — sometimes referred to as the traffic light of the power grid — are one of many valuable tools that help reduce the number of outages our customers face.”

On Feb. 22, 2023, an ice storm slammed Michigan, causing widespread power outages and hazardous conditions that resulted in nearly 78,000 electric customers without power in Washtenaw County alone, some of them for up to a week. All told, more than 850,000 Michigan customers were left without power, including 260,000 Consumers Energy customers. Consumers and the other large utility in Michigan, DTE Energy, received major backlash from the public over their response to the situation.

Still, Consumers noted that ATRs were able to help the system avoid tens of thousands of outages last year alone. During major thunderstorms that August, for example, ATRs reportedly prevented outages for nearly 9,000 customers. Laird called them a big part of the company’s reliability drive and instrumental for dealing with storms.

Consumers Energy invests $15 million annually into ATRs.