How smart city technology will reduce the impact of black-outs

by Search Gate staff. Published Tue 26 May 2015 14:44
Smart grid will help reduce power outages across the networks
Smart grid will help reduce power outages across the networks

Tony Rooney, Managing Director of S&C; Electric EMEA, discusses how grid radio technology ensures disruption to the end-user is kept to a minimum and how it helps Distribution Network Operators reduce their chances of receiving huge financial penalties as a result of power outages.

Worldwide revenue from Smart Grid Technologies is expected to reach £45 billion annually by 2023. As electricity networks evolve around the world, grid communication technologies will play an integral role to ensure networks operate seamlessly and power outages are kept to a minimum.

Power outages close schools, shut down businesses and impede emergency services, costing economies billions and disrupting the lives of millions. Weather-related outages are estimated to cost the U.S. economy up to £46 billion ($70 billion) annually, with costs of outages taking various forms including lost output and wages, spoiled inventory, delayed production, inconvenience and damage to the electric grid.

The Royal Academy of Engineering using its blackout simulator, calculates that power outages cost the UK economy up to £6.5million per MWh. A recent example of severe blackouts in the UK occurred in the winter of 2013/14. Storms caused around 750,000 homes to lose power, although around 90% of those were restored in within a day, some 16,000 properties remaining disconnected for more than 48 hours, and around 500 were without supply for more than five days. In early 2014, properties in the Southwest England were affected by further flooding, and some areas were without power for days or even weeks. The disruption resulted in distribution network operators (DNOs) in the two worst-hit areas having to pay out a total of £8 million in compensation.

Technologies are being developed to help reduce power outages across networks by making the grid smarter and more automated. Management monitoring software platforms specifically designed for the grid, continuously observe the network for potential faults. If a fault is detected, radios strategically installed throughout the grid communicate the problem to switches which isolate the fault, restoring power to customers within a few seconds. Without automated processes, when a fault occurs, an engineer has to be called to assess and attempt to resolve the situation. This process can be time consuming and any delays mean customers can be without power.

Communicating faults on the network is critical for it to run seamlessly. Radio technology typically accounts for less than 10 percent of the cost for an automated grid project but can be the difference between a project’s success and failure. If a tree were to fall on a power line during severe weather, hundreds or thousands of homes could lose power. Grid radios configured in a mesh layout can reduce the number of people impacted by instantly isolating the affected power line and feeding homes through another source without the intervention of Maintenance Crews. When the critical messages between automated switches are not delivered, switches don’t operate, and the lights don’t go back on. As electricity networks are developed and upgraded globally, we need to ensure resilient and effective radio mesh technology is part of the grid’s design and future proofing.

When system architects design intelligent electricity networks, grid communication technology must meet three specific criteria.

Resiliency: Radios must continue to operate during challenging conditions, events that may affect an electric system cannot impact a network’s communication.

Performance: Radios must have the capacity to handle a large number of messages simultaneously from multiple sources to destinations. When deploying grid automation systems, it’s vital that the communication network has been well designed and based on technologies that have been validated for grid automation application requirements.

Future proofing: We must have the scope to support future grid technologies that may be implemented just a few years down the road. The grid is evolving year on year and radio technologies must have the speed and capacity to support advanced applications in the future.

In the UK, one of Europe’s largest Distributed Automation projects is underway on the Isle of Wight and will demonstrate a host of smart grid technologies. S&C; Electric Europe Ltd., together with its project partners is incorporating its new SpeedNet SDR Software Defined Radio technology with field proven IntelliRupter PulseCloser Fault Interrupter and IntelliTeam Automatic Restoration System to reduce the frequency and duration of power outages on the island. The project will increase the resilience on the island, meaning fewer blackouts for the home and business owners and the potential for huge cost savings for Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) as they avoid circumstances like the ones seen during last year’s flooding.

Radio mesh technologies similar to the ones being installed on the Isle of Wight can operate on different frequencies and may have slightly different operating parameters. The SpeedNet SDR system is at the stage of being demonstrated in the UK, however many well-known North American utilities have already deployed other models of the radio. In Calgary, Canada’s third largest city, ENMAX has incorporated more than 500 S&C; SpeedNet Radios and calculates that the potent combination of S&C;’s SpeedNet, IntelliRupter PulseCloser and IntelliTeam has achieved a more than 20% reduction in unscheduled interruptions.

Resilient forms of radio technologies like SpeedNet SDR are important to ensure the electricity network runs effectively and power outages are kept to a minimum. However, if we are to build a more intelligent electricity network, we need not just one but a suite of smart technologies that can seamlessly operate alongside one another, and which can be tailored to meet the needs of different markets. In the UK, as DNOs further understand the business cases smart grid technologies, we will see projects like the one on the Isle of Wight move from demonstration to wide spread deployment.

Tony Rooney has extensive knowledge of the Energy Industry. After 27 years of hands-on experience, Tony has become well practiced in the UK & Northern Europe Power Industry.

During his career, Tony has managed and presided over 50 power and energy projects, being involved in every aspect of the power business environment; cumulating in a thorough appreciation of the energy sector.

In his current role of Managing Director at S&C; Electric Europe Ltd, Tony regularly speaks across a wide range of energy topics, drawing on his diverse career across many aspects of the energy industry.

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