Does Intelligent Power Line Monitoring Have Other Benefits?

More than two decades of field research have shown that intelligent line monitoring has many benefits beyond mitigation of wildfire risk. Benefits fall broadly in three categories.

Power quality and reliability

  • Improved SAIFI and SAIDI (i.e., fewer outages) – Utilities track industry-standard indices to measure service reliability. Common indices include SAIFI (System Average Interruption Frequency Index) and SAIDI (System Average Interruption Duration Index), which measure how many times (SAIFI) and for how many minutes (SAIDI) an average customer is without service, on an annual basis. Intelligent monitoring alerts utility companies to pre-failures and other degraded operating conditions, thereby enabling pro-active repairs and reducing outages.
  • Improved power quality – Substandard power negatively affects sophisticated industrial controls, consumer electronics, and other sensitive loads. Intelligent line monitoring can alert utility companies to pre-failures and other conditions that can cause momentary interruptions, voltage sags, and other events that negatively affect customers.
  • Better support of economic development – Reliable, high-quality, affordable power is an important consideration for businesses deciding where to locate offices and factories. Intelligent monitoring supports economic development by helping utility companies operate better and more efficiently.

System stresses and liability

  • Reduced stresses on line components (e.g., lines, connectors, switches, reclosers, transformers) – “Short circuits,” or faults, cause abnormally high levels of electric current, often 10 to 20 times normal, to flow temporarily through all line components between the source substation and the fault point. Line components are designed to withstand passage of fault current for short intervals, but each such fault stresses and ages them. Where a line component already is nearing end of life, passage of fault current can accelerate failure. By reducing fault occurrences, line monitoring technology reduces stresses on line components and lengthens their lifetimes.
  • Reduced damage and liability from catastrophic failures (e.g., line burn-downs, fires, transformer explosions) – Some line component failures occur suddenly and without warning. Other are preceded by a pre-failure period, during which a component continues to perform its function, but in a degraded way. Some types of pre-failures can exist for weeks without detection. Utilities typically are unaware of pre-failures, because conventional technologies do not detect them, and because frequent inspections of all components, many of which have normal lifetimes measured in decades, is not practical. Some failures can have serious consequences, including line burn-downs and explosions of oil-filled equipment. Intelligent monitoring detects many pre-failures, enabling proactive repairs that reduce catastrophic failures and the accompanying damage and liability.

Operational efficiency and other labor impacts

  • Daylight, fair-weather, straight-time failure locations and repairs – Failures and outages often occur in adverse working conditions, such as during storms or at night. By detecting pre-failures, intelligent line monitoring enables scheduled, proactive searches and repairs, often during fair weather and daylight hours, thus reducing overtime costs.
  • Improved crew safety – Daylight, fair-weather work also provides safer conditions for crews.
  • More effective, efficient troubleshooting – When responding to a customer complaint (e.g., outage, “flickering lights”), crews often have difficulty determining which component is causing the trouble. Pre-failures may cause symptoms intermittently, in which case the trouble may not manifest itself when the crew is at the customer’s premises. The crew therefore may restore service and leave, sometimes having made an incorrect diagnosis or a diagnosis of “no cause found,” only to have the trouble recur later and necessitate one or more additional service calls (and mad customers!). Intelligent line monitoring often can determine the cause of the trouble, thus enabling the crew to diagnose and fix the true source of the trouble, with one trip, simultaneously saving operating dollars and improving customer satisfaction.