Applications Protect Electricity Distribution Transformers

Oct. 2, 2012
Echelon Corp. has announced the beta availability of three new Control Operating System software applications that run on Echelon control nodes and are managed at the utility’s data center.

Echelon Corp. has announced the beta availability of three new Control Operating System software applications that run on Echelon control nodes and are managed at the utility’s data center. The apps enable network operators to monitor the health of distribution transformers, rapidly detect and respond to outages, and identify technical and commercial losses in the low-voltage network.

In many countries, the installed base of distribution transformers is aging, with less than one percent being monitored in real-time. Echelon’s COS Transformer Protection App enables operators to remotely monitor electrical parameters such as energy and maximum current per phase, along with physical parameters relevant to the transformer’s health, such as temperature, moisture level, and door open/close status. With distributed intelligence, only critical exception data is reported to the operations center where it can be visualized and acted upon. As a result, utilities can:

  • Trend transformer performance over time and detect gradual degradation
  • Identify inefficient transformers and energy loss
  • Receive real-time alerts before transformers fail due to overheating or overcapacity
  • Reduce number of field visits to transformers that are hard to reach
  • Improve public safety by alerting the utility when transformer doors are open

Power outages are not uncommon in the developed world, costing the EU €150B1 and the U.S. up to $180 billion a year. Additionally, in the future, the quality of power such as delivered voltage is likely to be compromised as more distributed energy sources such as photovoltaics or heavy temporal loads such as electric vehicles are incorporated into the grid. It is estimated that losses caused by poor power quality already cost the EU industry and commerce €10 billion annually, a number that is expected to increase. Utilities would prefer to proactively identify and respond to outages and power quality incidents rather than reacting to customer complaints.

Echelon’s COS Service Quality Assurance App can continuously pull and analyze power quality and other status information from all smart meters on the distribution network. This data can be reported in total or on an exception basis. Alternately, in order to further reduce data deluge, the app can instead pull and analyze data from a subset of meters that are strategically located at the middle or at the end of feeder lines. With this functionality, grid operators can:

  • Quickly narrow down the location of outages
  • Dispatch repair crew or begin to take other recovery actions even before the customer calls with a complaint
  • Know the exact time of interruption and recovery so there is no over reporting of outages to regulators
  • Identify incidents of over voltage, under voltage, harmonic distortion, phase loss, etc., to meet power quality service obligations mandated by EN 50160 – a standard that describes the voltage characteristics of public distribution systems

Even the most advanced countries in the world have energy losses of 6-8 percent in the transmission and distribution network. Reducing these losses has significant economic benefits. For example, it has been estimated that a 10 percent gain in efficiency could have saved the U.S. $5.7 billion in 2006. In addition to technical losses, a medium-sized U.S. utility may experience 1-2% loss from theft resulting in $5 - $20 million of revenue lost annually. Outside the U.S., in many high growth economies, it is not uncommon to see theft of service as high as 30 percent annually. With revenue assurance, savings for many utilities can be substantial.

Echelon’s COS Revenue Assurance App identifies areas of loss on the distribution network by tracking energy usage at distribution transformers, and comparing it with usage at meters attached to that transformer. Exception data can then be reported to the operations center so that utility personnel can be deployed most efficiently. This enables utilities to:

  • Quantify losses in the distribution network
  • Correlate instances of tampering at the meter with lost revenue
  • Reduce manual process and time needed to pinpoint the specific opportunities for revenue enhancement

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