When power interruptions occur, it is usually due to a ‘fault’ — or abnormal flow of electric current — on the distribution network. Power interruptions inconvenience customers, diminish the overall reliability of the Alectra Utilities (formerly PowerStream) electricity distribution system and reduce the efficiency of assets. Attempts to restore power can also cause strains on the network if the location of the fault is not properly isolated.
Consistent with its mission to be an innovative leader in Smart Grid technologies, Alectra Utilities decided to leverage its existing smart meter wireless technology in order to reduce the time it takes to identify faults and implement a solution.
In trials that began in July, 2011, the company installed 72 digital fault indicators linked to 24 radio transceivers on its distribution system in the Town of Aurora. The fault indicators were placed at strategic locations on the system’s overhead lines. Information from the digital fault indicators (normal system operation faults) is now transmitted on the existing smart meter channel and System Control Centre staff can now see any system faults on their monitors instantaneously.
Commissioning of the new fault finding equipment was completed on July 20, 2011, and five days later, on July 25, 2011 at 4:26 a.m., the devices detected the first fault. Since that time, Alectra Utilities has completed its trial, and the company is satisfied that digital fault indicator technology is not only viable, but would present a net benefit for its electricity distribution system and its customers. Alectra Utilities is now expanding deployment of this technology throughout its service territory.
Digital fault indicators allow Alectra Utilities to leverage the frequency spectrum and communication infrastructure that are already being used for smart meter data collection. They also help to prevent outages and speed up recovery by allowing System Control Centre staff to pinpoint the location of faults and identify areas that may be prone to persistent faults.
Digital fault technology was developed in order to ensure that the safest and most reliable power is delivered to customers.
By integrating digital fault technology with its existing IT infrastructure, Alectra Utilities System Control Centre staff are able to respond more quickly to brief interruption events, as well as sustained outages.
Digital Fault Indicators Case Study (701KB PDF)