Connection 8: Beyond Monitor and Control

The following is an article from the latest issue of Connection magazine, a collection of educational and thought-leading articles focusing on critical communications, wireless and radio technology. In this piece, Philip Mullins explains why the challenge for utilities is no longer just to know what is happening – it is the capacity to act on it.

No matter where in the world they operate, every utility is confronted by multiple business drivers competing for scarce resources and imposing change on their business environment. Utilities who have already begun the journey to modernization have discovered that, by changing the way they think and act, they can often satisfy multiple business objectives with a single investment.

HOW DATA ANALYSIS IS CHANGING THE WAY UTILITIES THINK

Grid automation and analytics are game-changers, certain to be at the forefront of developments down the track. But for now, most utilities simply want to access devices, monitor and manage them. That may not be as advanced as automated fault detection, or complex distance-to-fault calculations, but it is incredibly practical, and saves utilities a ton of money. Data that is already available can be used to anticipate faults, take proactive measures to prevent outages, and provide insights that improve planning and management of the grid.

This goes well beyond monitor and control of assets. It means reusing data intelligently, and developing ways to analyze and apply those new insights. Let’s look at the business benefits coming out of grid modernization right now:

• STRATEGIC PRIORITIZATION JUSTIFIES CONTINUED OPTIMIZATION

If you start by targeting the infrastructure and equipment that costs the most to get to, then deploy a radio terminal to remotely monitor and manage each of those, chances are each terminal will pay for itself in just one callout. You can prove a demonstrable return on investment by comparing reduced (or avoided) outages to justify further terminal deployments.

• REMOTE ASSET MONITORING AND MANAGEMENT IS REDUCING TRUCK ROLLS

One large US power utility (with an electricity customer base of more than two million), has estimated their average cost of a truck roll at $500 – labor, fuel, insurance, vehicle expenses etc. Using government grant money to upgrade their communications monitoring and visibility, they eliminated 130,000 truck rolls a year – over 350 a day. That saves them an estimated US$65M each year from just that one benefit; there are many others that will multiply savings and efficiencies.

• AUTOMATED FAULT DETECTION, ISOLATION AND SERVICE RESTORATION REDUCES OUTAGE FREQUENCY AND DURATION

With this level of monitoring and control, grid reports tell you where the fault is, and what the system did mitigate the problem. You can dispatch resource to the right place with the right skills, equipment and tools to fully restore service on the first trip. And ultimately, that keeps both customers and regulators happy. In a C3 Energy Report filed with the US Dept. of Energy, Duke Energy reported $330M in benefits from this implementation.

• CONSERVATION VOLTAGE REDUCTION REDUCES ENERGY CONSUMPTION AND SYSTEM LOSSES

Tuning the system to a slightly lower voltage forms the basis of virtual power plants, that reduce consumption through voltage reduction caused by fluctuating renewables output. The system absorbs the variability, yet it still delivers a constant output to the consumer.

• PREDICTIVE (CONDITION-BASED) MAINTENANCE REPLACES SCHEDULED PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE

Traditionally, maintenance schedules had little to do with the condition of assets, and everything to do with the calendar. Using returned poll responses to provide a continuous view of voltage, current and phase, analytics can associate high stress events, peak voltage, currents, and durations, to show exactly what an asset has experienced. Is it within the normal limits? Accumulated stress events mean you can predict and prevent failures, understand your assets’ overall condition and predict life expectancy. Load balancing schemes can take the stress off.

Even from the data you currently collect, we can see that the power of math is limitless in the insights it can provide. Analytics can correlate, parse, model, estimate and massage until there are sufficient insights to drive actions. The challenge for utilities is no longer just to know what is happening – it is the capacity to act on it.


This article is extracted from a free Tait White Paper, “Modernize Your Grid”. Download the full paper here. Read more thought-provoking articles from Issue 8 of Connection magazine here, and make sure to subscribe to be the first to know when new issues are released.

Tait Communications

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