Collaboration Leads to New Line Monitoring System

May 4, 2016

Utilities are continually evaluating new technical opportunities, but how do they know what is the best solution now and into the future? How do they manage the rapid amount of disruption and innovation in the industry, and who will be there to support them in the future?

Southwire has a model for managing new technologies and disruptive changes. We look to forge coalitions consisting of utilities, subject matter experts, specialty manufacturers and our own industry expertise to deliver relevant and highest quality solutions to our customers.

“I really don’t like to bring up this saying, but it is relevant here— ‘it takes a village’ to innovate and implement changes within the utility marketplace,” said Mark Lancaster, Director, Intelligent Grid & Energy Solutions for Southwire. “The best solutions touch numerous parts of an organization and are so complicated that multiple subject matter experts from multiple areas are required to get the best results.”

 Insulator Monitor System: Real time helps prevent downtime

Flashovers are a fact of life for insulators in certain environments. Salt spray, salt fog, airborne contamination and road spray are especially harmful. The current method for mitigating these risks is to implement a routine washing and maintenance schedule. But, at best, that’s a hit-or-miss solution that leaves customers vulnerable to unplanned outages. Accurate, real-time information about a customer’s insulators is crucial in identifying potential for flashover and addressing it before an issue can occur.

“We licensed a new robust, low-cost Insulator Monitoring System that helps prevent unplanned outages, disruption from loss of generation and generation re-dispatch, and reduces a utility’s operation and maintenance costs,” said Lancaster. “The new system, which was developed by EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, and licensed by Southwire, provides real-time status on insulator contamination level from anywhere there is an internet connection.”

The leakage sensors were developed and tested by EPRI over the course of eight years. The basic design of the leakage current sensors has been mature for several years, but extensive testing was required to develop the algorithms for multiple insulator types and coatings, to ensure that reliability targets were met.

EPRI has a significant number of implementations around the world underway for testing and demonstration purposes. Some have been operational for more than three years and continue to provide operational results that utilities take action on.

How it works

“This new Insulator Monitoring System provides accurate, real-time information on the contamination level for insulators, which can be used to address the issue before flashover occurs,” explained Lancaster. “Traditionally, utilities address this issue with scheduled cleanings, even when they are not needed. With Southwire’s system, cleanings can be optimized for condition-based maintenance so they are performed only when needed, thus reducing costs and outages.”

The system is comprised of battery-powered, wireless sensors mounted at the insulators. These sensors measure the leakage currently flowing across the insulator and transmit their measurement data and status via a radio frequency link to a base station, where the data is aggregated and recorded. The data is then transmitted to a customer-specified control system, SCADA or Southwire-hosted monitoring system via a cellular or direct-wired connection.

The parts that make it work

 RF Sensors. Wireless sensors that measure the leakage current across the insulator and transmit the data to a base station using 2.4 GHz 802.15.4 compliant RF. These sensors were developed and tested by EPRI in numerous installations over the course of eight years. The sensors are available in two configurations, for post-type and line insulators, and work on glass, ceramic and polymer materials, both coated and uncoated.

 Base Station. The base station collects weather data, aggregates data from then sensors and records the data, and then transmits that data to a customer-specified control system (SCADA) or Southwire-hosted monitoring system. Multiple communication methods can be provided, including cellular or direct-wired Ethernet or DNP3 to the Utility SCADA system.

Information Management System. The heart of the system is the proprietary algorithms that interpret the data collected by the sensors. The algorithms and alarm thresholds are the result of hundreds of hours of laboratory and field testing by EPRI. Southwire can provide full data monitoring and alarm notifications by using our Southwire Information Management System, or work with a utility to license and integrate the algorithms into their own asset or condition-based maintenance systems.

“Southwire has always delivered successful solutions. We understand the utility business and can filter the right solutions for our utility customer,” added Lancaster. “We’re a 65-year wire and cable veteran focused on helping utilities. Our plan for commercializing new innovations is designed to speed innovation to the Utility without decreasing reliability.”

Find out more about Southwire’s Intelligent Grid Solutions or call 704-379-9600. Southwire will also have Intelligent Grid Solutions information available at this year’s IEEE T&D Expo in Dallas on May 3–5. Visit Southwire at booth 5612.

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