Preventing power outages

Paul Boughton

Stretching over 12 million miles across the US and Europe combined, electricity distribution lines form the largest part of the complex energy network. However, this part of the network remains largely unmonitored and is often where most power outages occur.

To help electric utilities and distribution network operators (DNOs) gain real time visibility into what’s happening on the network, Tollgrade has designed a distribution monitoring platform that consists of smart grid sensors and predictive grid analytics software.

As the UK struggles with its ageing electricity network infrastructure and tries to keep the lights on, Tollgrade’s sensor technology is enabling engineers to monitor electricity distribution networks, and bring reliable distributed energy resources onto the grid safely.

UK projects

One UK DNO is using this sensor technology to monitor, predict and prevent dangerous conditions affecting overhead lines located across roads, next to playing fields, rivers and lakes. These ‘critical crossing’ points are the most likely places for hazardous situations to occur, such as vehicle strikes and inadvertent contact by kites and fishing rods, posing serious risks to human safety.

Currently in the development stage, the smart grid sensors are being adapted for this important application to help prevent potentially lethal accidents from occurring.

Another DNO is currently using the technology to gauge power capacity in order to avoid building new generation plants and therefore make better network decisions. These benefits are then passed onto consumers.

Tollgrade monitoring platform:

* Tollgrade’s sensors are lightweight boxes, about the size of a bread loaf, that quickly clamp onto overhead medium voltage distribution power lines.

* The predictive grid analytics software communicates with the sensors, capturing and storing event data and classifying line disturbances and outages.

Both sensor technology and analytics software provide real-time data and alarms about grid conditions and the status of overhead power lines.

Preventing power failures

Temporary disruptions to our electricity supply are often precursors to larger, more serious power failures. Tollgrade’s platform identifies the cause and effect of these problems, allowing operators to pinpoint failures quickly before major power outages occur.

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