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Alaskan Utility Makes Calls for Help Automatic

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Squirrels, rabbits and other small critters can sneak into a substation, making electrical contact and causing widespread outages. In Fairbanks, Alaska, however, wildlife-caused outages are taken to a new level with moose and caribou in the region.

“We’ve had snow drifts so high a moose has walked into the power line and caused an outage,” says  Gary Betsill, vice president of operations for Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEC). “We’ve had eight-foot drifts where caribou have walked over the fence, right into a substation.”

To quickly reconnect power following wildlife-caused outages, GVEC became the first Alaskan utility to fully automate callout. The company, which operates and maintains 3,216 miles of transmission and distribution lines, 35 substations and 8 generating facilities covering a 5,973-square-mile service territory, turned to ARCOS LLC to implement a program to respond to, restore and report to outages. 

The ARCOS Callout and Scheduling solutions allow GVEA’s supervisors, dispatchers and line workers, among others, to plan, launch and track the status of automated, after-hours calls for emergency crews from their desktops, tablets and smartphones. GVEA will begin rolling out the ARCOS suite to line crew sections, then plant workers and, eventually, non-union workers needed for storm roles.

Betsill joined the utility from Georgia Power where his former colleagues still use ARCOS to mobilize crews for after-hours emergencies and storm response. He says when he arrived in 2017 at GVEC, the in-house callout system was rudimentary.

 "It could do a straight callout, but if you introduced a second- or third-man scenario, it didn’t work," he says. 

With ARCOS, GVEA will ensure it calls out lineworkers according to the bargaining agreements in place with the locals of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and International Union of Operating Engineers. The agreements with the unions confirm, in part, the equitable distribution of overtime. In fact, mirroring complex work agreements is a hallmark of the ARCOS solution.

“I sold ARCOS to our management by telling them the product’s claim to fame is absolutely emulating the contractual obligations for callout procedures, every time,” added Betsill.

Betsill believes the ARCOS solution will reduce GVEA’s System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI), which will be a bonus for the cooperative’s members. The ARCOS platform will also serve a role in helping union workers participate for the first time in GVEA’s Incentive Employee Program. Among the IEP goals for line workers is achieving a 50-percent callout acceptance rate, which the ARCOS solution will track.

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