By Alan Snook
In recent years we've seen severe storms impact electric grids around the world. We’ve seen large population centers endure power outages which extend for uncomfortably long periods. And in the face of it all we've seen political leaders grapple with ways to finance a more resilient electric grid.
But the truth is no matter how hard we try to “weather proof” electrical grids -- whether they are above or below ground -- we know that Mother Nature will continue to create havoc. We also know that storms cost the world billions of dollars annually due to power outages and related damages.
We can't stop storms, but we can take other measures to create a more resilient grid. This is where the Distribution Transformer Monitor (DTM) enters the picture.
Distribution grids throughout the world are typically functioning with well-aged assets. Utility distribution transformer fleets are 20-30 years of age on average, supported by lines and poles which may be of similar vintage. Although it may sound easy to simply replace the aging distribution transformers within grids, doing so is both cumbersome and costly.
There's the cost of the new devices, paying crews to replace them, the extensive outages associated with a massive replacement campaign and inevitably there will be many transformers pulled off line that still have years of quality service capability.
Distribution Transformer Monitors (DTM) offer utilities a new way to strengthen grid resiliency. These versatile, intra-grid sensors present a retrofit solution that quickly installs on existing distribution transformers. Given flexible, onboard communications options, DTM devices can be installed within minutes and then immediately begin to capture and transmit data from their distribution transformer host.
DTMs give utilities a way to monitor asset performance
The DTM converts each simple transformer into an intelligent node that can yield powerful insight into asset performance, power quality and grid efficiency. With this solution, utilities proactively identify mal-performing transformers, allowing them to plan outages for surgical asset replacement, or to perform preventative maintenance. By using this proactive approach, unplanned outages and the cost and inconvenience they bring are tremendously lessened.
Similarly, the DTM solution gives utilities a clear vision into power losses occurring within their grid space. This is a vital advantage. Power theft from unauthorized or unmetered consumption may mean utilities have to absorb the revenue loss or pass it along to their paying customers in the way of higher rates.
Given increasing demands on utilities to deliver reliable power plus the ongoing regulatory pressures on coal and nuclear generation and the need to conserve power generation resources for future generations, effective grid hardening solutions are more important than ever. DTMs are emerging as a foundational element of the grid hardening movement taking place around the globe.
Alan Snook is a founding member of GRID20/20, Inc. and has led the company as its president since its inception in March 2011. GRID/2020 is a Council Associate Partner.