Hurricane Accelerates Ambitious OMS Overhaul

March 1, 2012
Winds of change cause rapid position change on LIPA's smart grid road map, particularly concerning its outage management system.

On the morning of Aug. 28, 2011, when Hurricane Irene struck its service area, Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) was more than nine months into a multi-year comprehensive smart grid project designed to improve systems operations for its 1.1 million customers in Nassau and Suffolk counties and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens in New York. The impact Hurricane Irene had on the utility's system was significant. While the existing outage management system (OMS) was more than adequate on blue-sky days and in storms of normal magnitude, the impact of Irene, coupled with a six-day restoration effort, revealed numerous shortfalls in the existing OMS system.

LIPA has since made a business decision to accelerate the implementation of its planned new OMS/distribution management system (DMS). Already in the works at the time Hurricane Irene hit, the new system was to feature a fully integrated application with a single operational database and utility-wide data model, an integrated network model, and comprehensive operational awareness using state-of-the-art business intelligence and visualization tools fully integrated over an enterprise service bus.

OMS Takes Center Stage

Hurricane Irene walloped the region with rain and wind — uprooting 10,000 trees, toppling utility poles, downing power lines and causing widespread flooding. The storm resulted in more than 5,500 severely damaged T&D locations and outages to 523,000 customers. It also altered the schedule and plan associated with the new OMS.

After an estimated US$177 million spent on restoration work and infrastructure damage (excluding loss-of-service costs), the planned OMS/DMS project took on a new urgency. The five-year staged program for implementation was accelerated and reprioritized. A top priority: get real-time OMS functionality up and running on all of LIPA's 980 feeders during 2012. With its ambitious plan, LIPA aims to fully implement, test and begin benefiting from the new system in its first year of deployment.

Toward an Adaptive OMS

The sudden, devastating outages tested the best efforts of more than 1,500 damage assessors, 7,500 restoration workers and more than 1,000 call center communication and command center employees. It also made clear the time had come to swiftly deploy a more adaptive and capable response system.

LIPA's new OMS would allow restoration management to be dynamically adjustable depending on the location of damage and size of the affected areas. LIPA also sought functionality that could be used to optimize the use of restoration crews and transition affected areas from emergency operations to storm operations to normal operations. The underlying model and architecture of LIPA's new system is being designed to accommodate these adaptations. As situations arise, the operator will be able to redefine and subdivide the system dynamically, allowing each area to be autonomously supervised and operated under a different mode of storm operation, whether centralized, distributed or a hybrid of the two.

Real-Time Storm Damage Assessment

Like many utilities, LIPA traditionally managed and repaired storm damage using field crews to assess damage and communicate repair needs to a control center or a remote location such as a substation. Once damage information was collected in the field, crews entered it into the system. From there, a control center operator and LIPA management could view the unfolding progress of the restoration.

The new system will take it much further. No longer will surveyors and repair crews fill out handwritten damage assessment reports that must later be typed into system reports. The new system is planned to equip crews with handheld mobile devices to communicate data directly to the utility.

Communication in the aftermath of damaging events can be challenging. LIPA's new applications and connections are being designed to enable users to continue to record findings even without an active communications link to store the data and to later upload it when a link is available. This feature is critical as the communications infrastructure in a major system event may not be as available as it is on a blue-sky day.

Consumer and Media Communications

LIPA's plan also reflects a new level of responsiveness to consumers and a creative use of new tools to communicate to the media and public. In addition to its traditional website posting of information, LIPA plans to deploy several new tools to improve the accuracy and accessibility of restoration news to the community. The new plan will leverage and include media and consumer web portals with updated, customizable and accurate visibility of damage, repair activities and restoration estimates. Accessible applications being developed are anticipated to make reporting outages easier for customers, too.

Visualization Technology

When a storm strikes, operators must integrate information from multiple systems, often with a different user interface for each. Additionally, they must gather all the data needed for critical decisions from a variety of siloed systems. This is a difficult task in fast-moving emergency scenarios.

After the initial installation using traditional desktop monitors to support immediate use of OMS, a unique element of LIPA's new integrated OMS/DMS system will be the integration of a horizontal touchscreen display supporting multi-touch gestures. New graphical features for the horizontal display will allow operators to move, pan and zoom over large maps. Layers combine the data separation features and visibility of the paper maps (which the system is replacing) with the functionality of instant updates, interactive control and real-time data presentation on the screen.

The display is being developed to dynamically represent activity related to the network in addition to dynamic colorization, including outage calls, outage tickets, work orders, switching procedures (including the location of steps within a procedure) and crews.

LIPA's new OMS will consolidate its legacy systems to provide operators an intuitive, integrated and high-performance user interface for optimal situational awareness of the state of the feeder network.

Geographic information system (GIS) display will be augmented with additional mapping capabilities, replacing the paper maps with newer, more accurate displays. There will be a move toward a real-time three-phase topology for the distribution network instead of the three different supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems for information from transmission, distribution substations and feeder devices. The upgraded system contains customer-to-grid information enabling topology-based outage analysis as a step forward from the internally developed OMS. Paper records for switching will be electronically stored and automated with interactive tools. Updated maps will convey more detail and network information to improve management of crew activity.

The goal for the new system is to integrate the critical information from each of these systems into a single functional presentation of network status, system data, procedures, outages and customer information. The same integrated data will be used for customer communication, operators and restoration crews. LIPA's new GIS-based network map capabilities, after completion of the installation, will accurately represent the real-time network with embedded substation diagrams, analog values and control and status data from field devices. In this way, the system map will become the primary information and navigation tool, allowing easy access to other page-based displays in the system, when the operational need arises.

True View of the Network State

The new system will provide a true GIS view of the network system, which is useful when directing field crews to locations, as well as a switching view for separating elements that may otherwise be concealed in the true geospatial representation.

The incremental network extract and conversion tool, which is a key component of the new system, will build a single map from the GIS source, but also will enable the user to stretch devices and the network into an unobstructed view without breaking the connectivity. The display system saves the true GIS location and the adjusted switching location for future use. This will enable the LIPA operators to toggle easily back and forth on the same display from one map representation to the other. The benefit is only one source map must be maintained, representing the true network state. Another feature that will be highly useful to operators is the ability to dynamically generate operational schematic views from the network model in real time.

Switching Procedures

LIPA's new system will support various levels of the switching process automation and optimization, replacing handwritten audit reports and documents with advanced load-flow analysis techniques for creating procedures that use the real-time state and analysis of the network.

DMS applications will be designed to generate their own switch plans. These applications will conform to the same process for producing proposed switch plans regarding the procedure for approval and execution. The user interface is being designed to focus all activity related to the current switch procedure, as all actions are recorded by the system and those performed by the operator are recorded in the active procedure.

Any ancillary information also may be attached to the procedure for a complete documentation trail. Attached documents then can be opened from within the procedure, including ticket information, work orders and crew details. Annotations, photos and assessment forms generated from mobile devices also may be attached to the corresponding procedure, which may act as a container for all related documentation.

The network map also will be linked to the procedure, and will be automatically zoomed and panned to the proper extent of the network area involved with the switching. This will provide the operator easy call-up capability for maximum situational awareness.

The enhanced visualization capability of the new system will extend from the control center in both directions, both up to the public and corporate enterprise domains and down to the field personnel. The visualization will overlay the real-time network information over a Google map.

LIPA expects the advantages of this integration to be significant. Depending on the access security and role-based authorization, the user will have the ability to use any remote device, such as a tablet or smart phone, to view any piece of network data from the system, such as network diagrams on a map that also offers street views and satellite imagery.

Enabling Development of Future Applications

Six months after Irene's devastation, the new OMS is well underway, within the context of the larger smart grid project. Feeders are being upgraded, information is being recorded and institutionalized, and new mapping and visualization methodologies are being applied. The entire system is being integrated with an enterprise service bus.

LIPA's implementation of the integrated smart grid automation applications, which will occur systematically over the next few years, will result in an explosion in the amount of dynamic data collected by the system beyond the 1,100 current control locations. When storms hit, the data volume and alarm load will be pronounced. The expansion of LIPA's current feeder automation system to include optimization will result in dynamic reconfiguration of the network. The utility's vision is to deploy an advanced OMS/DMS that not only can adapt to these dynamic network changes, but also can dynamically adjust the operational processes in a responsive and flexible manner for areas requiring a different strategy for operation.

LIPA's new OMS/DMS needs are based on its smart grid road map. Key adopted concepts include flexibility of near plug-and-play for new and best-of-breed applications. One of the deliverables of the new OMS/DMS is the applications development module. Standards-based infrastructure and the use of a network simulator, in combination with the development environment connected through the integration bus with enterprise data, are expected to enable effective development and implementation of new smart grid algorithms and applications for system operation. This is expected to add efficiencies in the development, testing and implementation of applications developed internally or in cooperation with others.

According to, which records storm data and extrapolates it to predict statistical likelihood for weather events, the next major hurricane will most likely hit the Long Island area by 2014. By then, LIPA expects the ambitious overhaul of its OMS/DMS and comprehensive smart grid tools to have proven their worth with new levels of reliability and responsiveness, and as one of the nation's smartest utility enterprises.

Looking Forward

LIPA has contracted with Efacec for its suite of OMS/DMS products, including modifications and enhancements to Efacec's PRISM OMS. LIPA is looking forward to the successful installation of the new system later this year and will report on its progress in a future article.

Nicholas J. Lizanich ([email protected]) is the vice president of transmission and distribution operations for the Long Island Power Authority. He is responsible for the oversight of the planning, engineering, operation, maintenance and construction of the T&D system including all of the systems that support the T&D business. Prior to joining LIPA, Lizanich held a variety of key positions in the utility industry including positions at FirstEnergy, Exelon Corp. and Patrin Engineering. He has MSIE and BEE degrees from Cleveland State University and is a registered professional engineer.

Predrag Vujovic ([email protected]) is the director of operation T&D planning of the Long Island Power Authority. He is responsible for the coordination and development of LIPA's smart grid road map and data and process integration using standard-based SOA and infrastructure, asset and maintenance management optimization, risk management and project prioritization. His experience includes managing development and implementation of EPRI's T&D reliability-centered maintenance, development of new concepts of integrated equipment monitoring and diagnostics. He also managed projects that developed new concepts of T&D integrated asset and risk management and process automation required to support performance-based risk-focused maintenance and asset management.

Companies mentioned:

Efacec |

Long Island Power Authority |

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of T&D World, create an account today!