The future of our grid: This 3M technology is turning heads in the U.S. after a decade of success in Europe
Apr 3, 2023

Imagine a heart surgeon who doesn’t have the technology to monitor your heart.

A similar situation is happening right now with U.S. electrical grids: Many grid operators have limited visibility to critical information about what’s happening in their networks.

Fortunately, 3M developed a technology to help solve this problem more than a decade ago. It first caught on in Europe but is now gaining traction in the U.S. amid a sharp increase in extreme weather events and new energy demands.

The innovation is an easy-to-install sensor that can transmit real-time data about vital parameters in underground medium-voltage networks. “It’s like a heart-rate monitor for your electrical system,” said Terry Collier, vice president of R&D for 3M’s electrical markets.

3M captured the attention of Powering Chicago, an electrical industry labor-management partnership that featured the technology in a recent video.

“Having this technology will show the customer that there might be some problems in their system, and they can repair that before a catastrophic failure,” said Jerry McGlynn, vice president of field operations for McWilliams Electric, in the video.

The executive director of Powering Chicago, Elbert Walters III, visited 3M’s innovation center in Austin, Texas, to see the product first-hand and talk with in-house experts.

“This technology has proven to be a difference maker for those clients that have been using it in Europe for years now,” he said in the video. “It will allow projects in the U.S. to maximize efficiency and safety.”

3M first entered the electrical industry in the 1940s with the invention of electrical tape, and now has more than 75 years of experience providing proprietary technologies to the market segment.

“As we look to better manage our electrical infrastructure, the ideal business case for grid modernization is one that combines extending the life of current assets in a cost-effective manner, while preparing for future grid opportunities,” said Collier.

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