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Fire Protection: Products and Solutions

March 4, 2020
Products and solutions to reduce the risks and long-term impacts of wildfires, enhance the safety and resiliency of power lines.

Utilities are being held accountable for the devastation taking place in wildfire prone areas like California and Australia. Data has shown that the most common source for ignitions of wildfires in the United States are caused by vegetation contact, overhead equipment failure and animal interactions. In the utility industry today, failure to respond isn’t an option and because utilities can’t shoulder all of the burden alone, power systems equipment manufacturers are dedicating resources to designing and providing solutions that will contribute to wildfire mitigation efforts.

Although there is not a single option available to prevent wildfire events, there are products and solutions available that can reduce the risks and long-term impacts of a wildfire. Some of those solutions include:

1. Reducing sparks and arcs generated by overhead equipment and animal contact:

Eliminating sparks and arcs caused by traditional line equipment and wildlife contact can make an impact, especially in areas where vegetation is growing in excess.

The California Power Line Fire Prevention Field Guide outlines a specific set of procedures to help utilities minimize the risk of catastrophic fires caused by electric power lines and associated equipment. For overhead equipment, this guide provides utilities with a list of products that meet exemption requirements and mandates the test procedures that manufacturers must follow to qualify new products. To achieve CAL Fire exempt qualification in California, these products must be able to operate without generating sparks or arcs that would otherwise be seen with traditional devices.

Wildlife protection equipment can also be deployed on overhead equipment to reduce the risk of animal contact with energized equipment. This form of protection can prevent harm to the animals while also preventing costly and dangerous equipment failures as a result of fault conditions.

2. Reinforcing infrastructure:

Utilities are recognizing the vulnerabilities of wood poles in wildfire situations, but opting to replace the millions of wooden poles with metal or composite ones isn’t a simple or realistic change to make from a cost or labor perspective. That’s why reinforcing wood pole structures with passive fire protection options are being seriously considered. There are several products available in the market, but there is not yet an available standard for the fire protection of wooden utility poles. Instead, utilities evaluating passive fire protection options are defining their own criteria and testing the performance of wraps and coatings.

Reinforcing pole structures with passive fire protection methods can significantly reduce the financial impact and duration of outages following a fire.

3. Grid monitoring:

Real-time data can provide utilities with the latest information on areas that pose as potential hazards for ignition. Using smart line sensors and analytics can help utilities make proactive servicing decisions that will better support the strategic use of utilities’ time and funds — before, during and after a fire.

These ongoing efforts to enhance the safety and resiliency of power lines is something that everyone can appreciate. Manufacturers of distribution equipment like Hubbell Power Systems and Aclara are determined to make a change and are actively developing products and solutions that support the progress toward a safer and smarter grid.

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