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Consumers Energy to install high tech line reclosers to more quickly respond to outages

The sun sets behind power lines in Los Angeles in September.
Frederic J. Brown
AFP via Getty Images
Consumers Energy will install 123 Automatic Reclosers to shut off and then restore power along circuits in its electric transmission system.

Consumers Energy says it will install 123 new high-tech devices over the next five years across its electric transmission system to help prevent power outages, and speed up the response to power outages.

The devices are called automatic transfer reclosers, or ATRs. They're like circuit breakers in a house, but they can runs tests and automatically restore power if the problem was something transient like a branch falling on a power line.

Greg Salisbury is Vice President of electric distribution engineering.

He said the devices will help Consumers bring power back to people much more quickly, by responding to transient problems automatically and freeing up workers to deal with other problems.

"If that circuit can be repowered automatically with the recloser, then we never have to go check on it, and we can go work on the circuits that are actually damaged enough to require service," he said.

Salisbury said the ATRs also help crews identify where a more serious problem might be, if an ATR shuts power off and keeps it off.

"Without that recloser, the crew might have to go out and look at a whole 50 mile long circuit to find the issue. This way, they can just go straight to the recloser and follow the line along until they find what's wrong."

Salisbury said the utility's efforts to reduce outages are already producing results. He said outages in Consumers' territory were reduced by 45% in 2022, despite wind speeds being higher than in years past.

Consumers Energy may also consider placing about 5,000 miles of its most vulnerable transmission lines underground. Those lines tend to be in areas with large numbers of trees, where tree-trimming activity is less effective.

Consumers Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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