Gene Wolf
Transmission line DLR monitoring. Photo by Gene Wolf.
Transmission line DLR monitoring. Photo by Gene Wolf.
Transmission line DLR monitoring. Photo by Gene Wolf.
Transmission line DLR monitoring. Photo by Gene Wolf.
Transmission line DLR monitoring. Photo by Gene Wolf.

Caught By The Legacy Twins

Aug. 3, 2022
It will be interesting to see how regulatory support will fare against the legacy twins, but there’s way too much capacity being wasted not to do something about it.

Have you ever been caught between the legacy twins? They’re legacy thinking and legacy technology. It’s easy to have it happen because no one is immune including me. I was shocked because I had thought I was legacy twins knowledgeable, but I didn’t realize they were so devious. Legacy thinking is old-school thinking patterns that were shaped in the past, but are still with us. Legacy technologies follows the same pattern, but with out-of-date hardware and software.

It all started for me when I saw the new 2022 QLED 4K TVs at the big box store. There was one in particular that looked amazing. It isn’t always the best to judge technology in the store, however. There are so many ways to make electronics look good when they are calibrated for the sales floor. Since I’m always digging into tech-trends, I hit a couple of my favorite research sites and found plenty of information on this particular make and model.

As I worked my way through the technospeak, I was wowed by artificial intelligence (AI) built into the TV’s processor, and then I got sidetracked. Several of the reviewers moved into the built-in custom streaming features that made cable cutting easier. Streaming has grown in popularity while cable and satellite services dropped in their acceptance ratings. The statistics are mind boggling, there are tens of millions of customers leaving these providers for modern, cost effective entertainment technologies.

It's About Inertia

As I read, I realized that the legacy twins had gotten me. I was using a provider supplied box with a hard drive to record shows when cloud storage was available. I recorded shows to fast forward commercials, while the streaming apps removed the commercials automatically. If the local station preempted the show I was recording, I missed the show, but not on streaming. Twenty-first century thinking got me again!

Being an engineer, I got busy with my spreadsheet software. To make a long story short, I ran a simple benefits-to-cost analysis and found it didn’t make sense to continue the old way. It was time to ditch the box! At that point, I started wondering why it had taken me so long to do it. I’m always writing about the latest trends and keeping up to date technologically, and here I was stuck with old-school entertainment technology.

With so many other issues on our plates, it’s easy to overlook the obvious. That’s a big danger with legacy twins especially when they’re combined with inertia. Last month’s Charging Ahead article “Smarter Vegetation Management” was about infusing predictive analytics and AI to take vegetation management to the next level. It’s all about using geospatial and remote sensing systems combined with AI, which provide more details faster when it comes to identifying trouble trees.

The Twins at Work

After completing the story, I was talking to a colleague who worked in vegetation management. He wasn’t getting it. His company used aerial surveying, but they preferred “boots-on-the-ground” when it came to identifying trouble trees. It’s the way they always did it, it worked, and weren’t interested in changing. The legacy twins had done their job. It’s not surprising, we are all set in our ways somewhat.

Probably the most well documented case of the legacy twins at work is the dynamic line ratings (DLR) phenomena. A couple of decades ago DLR technology became available, but many North American transmission owners/operators continue to use 1930s technology to determine their line ratings. But maybe that’s changing. Recently FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) sent out notices about transmission line ratings being modernized.

If you’re not familiar with DLR systems, it’s a monitoring technology that continuously provides real-time transmission line ratings in all weather conditions. The technology is widely used globally, but acceptance varies in North America. DLR is able to identify unused capacity on transmission lines that use the old-school static line rating systems. Typically rating increases can range from 20% to 40%, which is why FERC is interested.

Late last year, FERC  issued order 881, which requires  transmission operators to migrate from seasonal or static line ratings to hourly ambient adjusted ratings (e.g., DRL). Earlier this year FERC sent out a related notice of inquiry, telling the operators to look into the costs and benefits of implementing DLR. It will be interesting to see how regulatory support will fare against the legacy twins, but there’s way too much capacity being wasted not to do something about it!

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