Real-Time Fault Indicators Make ComEd’s Grid Smarter

March 3, 2009
Commonwealth Edison successfully field-tested an SEL fault indicator solution for mesh networks.

Commonwealth Edison has successfully field-tested an SEL fault indicator solution for mesh networks. The fault indicator reduces ComEd’s fault-finding time by communicating fault status back to a central location using an embedded Landis+Gyr UtiliNet radio as part of ComEd’s move toward a smarter grid.

For the pilot project, ComEd distributed SEL fault indicators throughout the utility’s delivery area in northern Illinois. DC Systems’ RTscada software processes the SEL fault indicator information to make it compatible with ComEd’s head-end network. The resulting reports allow utility crews to locate faults more quickly, thereby improving distribution reliability.

The system works to reduce fault-finding time and improve grid intelligence. The fault indicator trips when it senses an inrush of fault current, then communicates back to a central location via the mesh network. ComEd personnel monitoring the central station receive the fault information and dispatch a troubleshooting crew to the fault location. This significant reduction in response time allows repair crews to react swiftly to restore power to ComEd customers. The SEL sensor can also report periodic updates on load current, temperature, and other relevant data.

"ComEd already had a network infrastructure with distribution automation in place, but needed a communications sensor with fault indication capability. SEL was able to leverage our expertise in sensor technology to develop a compatible solution with ComEd," said SEL Division Engineering Manager Tony Vitucci. "Field exposure and field data will provide valuable insight as SEL continues to develop distribution automation technologies as part of its smart grid solutions portfolio."

At present, this unique fault indicator is still in field trials. SEL’s goal is to design fault indicators that will work within any utility’s existing infrastructure.

"ComEd takes reliability very seriously," said Tim McGuire, ComEd vice president of construction and maintenance. "Adding the SEL fault indicators to our network has a direct impact on our CAIDI metrics. The radio communications capability feature means that our troubleshooting crews are equipped with as much information as possible about the location of the fault."

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