Monitoring solar flares

Nicola Brittain

Scottish Power manages solar flares with new a new monitoring solution.

British energy provider and distribution network operator for parts of Scotland, northern England and Wales, Scottish Power, needed to protect a key site in Scotland’s central belt hosting a 1000MVA auto-transformer from the effects of solar flares - periods when intense high-energy radiation is emitted from the sun’s surface, causing radio and magnetic disturbances on Earth.

Coupled with local geology, these have the potential to disrupt the magnetic circuit of transformers, leading to inefficient power transmission as well as significant damage.

In order to accurately and continuously monitor the condition of its transformer, detect the effects of geomagnetically induced currents, and take proactive maintenance if required, Scottish Power commissioned the installation of a Vaisala unit called the Optimus DGA Monitor OPT100. Installation specialists Elimpus Ltd conducted the build.

The OPT100 is Vaisala’s most advanced monitoring solution and assesses a transformer’s condition by measuring for the presence of moisture and seven different fault gases in transformer oil.

“Scottish Power has a number of strategic transformers on the transmission network that require advanced condition monitoring, and we have been increasingly wary of the effects of solar flares and geomagnetically induced currents to disrupt their efficient performance,” said Keith Black, system performance senior engineer at Scottish Power. “The Vaisala unit was installed because it met our current specification of online DGA devices with the addition of being maintenance free.”

Achieving the best outcome

The OPT100 draws on Vaisala’s long heritage in industrial measurement technology. High engineering quality is maintained by manufacturing all of the unit’s components in-house, including the innovative tuneable non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) filters, which ensure optimal condition monitoring performance regardless of operational conditions.

The tuneable NDIR filter provides confidence to the monitoring team that their measurements are stable over the long term. The tuneable NDIR filter prevents drift and ensures all dissolved gas concentrations are accurately measured.

Simple installation

An additional and key benefit of Vaisala’s OPT100 over other transformer monitoring solutions is its simple installation process, which enabled Elimpus and Scottish Power to quickly and independently bring the unit online. And, with no consumables, the unit requires no regular maintenance of its own.

Scottish Power has been using the OPT100 since November 2017, and has benefited from greater oversight of its asset’s condition. “The OPT100 gives us the ability to track any disturbance that may occur and extend the lifetime of our transformer, as well as reducing the possibility of any unplanned outages,” added Keith Black.

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