Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories
The Relay That Changed the Power Industry
Edmund Schweitzer’s microprocessor-based device made power grids safer and more reliable
For more than a century, utility companies have used electromechanical relays to protect power systems against damage that might occur during severe weather, accidents, and other abnormal conditions. But the relays could neither locate the faults nor accurately record what happened.
Then, in 1977, Edmund O. Schweitzer III invented the digital microprocessor-based relay as part of his doctoral thesis. Schweitzer’s relay, which could locate a fault within the radius of 1 kilometer, set new standards for utility reliability, safety, and efficiency.
To develop and manufacture his relay, he launched Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in 1982 from his basement in Pullman, Wash. Today SEL manufactures hundreds of products that protect, monitor, control, and automate electric power systems in more than 165 countries.
Schweitzer, an IEEE Life Fellow, is his company’s president and chief technology officer. He started SEL with seven workers; it now has more than 6,000.
The 40-year-old employee-owned company continues to grow. It has four manufacturing facilities in the United States. Its newest one, which opened in March in Moscow, Idaho, fabricates printed circuit boards.
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