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Why Sensors are a Better Investment than FCI’s: Part 2

Posted by Tim Figura, Senior Sales Engineer on Aug 19, 2014 9:00:00 AM

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This blog is the second installment in our four part series on why LightHouse Smart Grid Sensors are a better investment than Fault Current Indicators (FCIs or FPIs). In the previous post, we noted that LightHouse Sensors are more accurate than FCIs due to the four levels of analytical processing of the sensor data available in the LightHouse Sensor Management System (SMS) software with Predictive Grid® Analytics. In this post, we will focus on the second reason why utilities should choose sensors: LightHouse Sensors are the only solution offering Predictive Grid Analytics.

Predictive Grid Analytics software is revolutionary as it monitors the distribution network to give utilities real-time information to predict outages and failures of their assets before they occur. Utilities with FCIs are missing out on a great opportunity to predict outages and reduce the number of outage minutes.

Why do you need Predictive Grid Analytics?

Tollgrade is changing the way utility companies deal with power outages with our Predictive Grid Analytics. With the Predictive Grid Analytics, utilities can use real-time data from the distribution grid to proactively troubleshoot future failures by looking for the precursors of problems before they cause an outage. For example, the sensors tell if substations are overloaded or if a section of the grid is experiencing frequent momentaries or line disturbances that can be the tell-tale signs of outages.

The Tollgrade LightHouse platform is the only solution to classify the “line disturbances” (e.g. a tree hitting the power line). Line Disturbances are fault events on the line which do not trip any protective devices.  An example would be a 4,000 ampere fault that was only on the line for 3 cycles before it burned clear of the line.  The substation circuit breaker relay or recloser detected the fault, but the time-over-current curves in the relay did not time-out to initiate a trip.  Typically, the utility would be completely blind to such events -- even if they had SCADA.

For example, the Northeast blackout of 2003 was caused by a tree hitting a power line and creating a cascading series of outages. During this blackout, Daimler Chrysler lost production at 14 of its 31 plants and had to scrap 10,000 vehicles.  By monitoring and detecting these events, utilities can take preventative outages to stop outages – and significantly impact the cost outages have on business and households. 

Once these events are classified, the Rules Based Engine (RBE) in SMS can categorize even more specific events as “rules” such as a blown fuse on a lateral circuit, an adjacent phase fault, a downstream trunk fault or if fault current is just a result of a Capacitor Bank switching, or load switching operation.  This gives you visibility into events beyond just faults that cause an outage. Second, all data is available to analyze trends and evaluate “cause and effect” around faults to build actionable intelligence and accurate alerts to proactively troubleshoot new grid conditions (before they cause an outage). 

This visibility allows utilities to send out crews to investigate and correct problems before they lead to an outage.  This means crews can make repairs during normal business hours and when situations are more ideal, for example in the daylight and not during a storm. 

By getting ahead of these problems, utilities can take planned, corrective action that saves time and money by eliminating failures before they occur.  By providing this real-time information remotely, utilities can actually avoid outages, respond to outages faster and eliminate thousands of miles of truck rolls (and greenhouse gases).

DTE Energy is a great example of a utility deploying LightHouse Sensors to reduce outages in Detroit, Michigan. In June, Tollgrade made a Commitment of Action to “Build a Predictive Grid for the Motor City” with DTE Energy at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America’s Meeting.  With this CGI commitment, Tollgrade and DTE Energy are targeting to reduce nearly 500,000 customer outage minutes over the next three years in the DTE Energy service territory where Tollgrade’s LightHouse system is deployed.  By detecting the precursors of outages like “line disturbance” events and momentaries, DTE Energy can more easily find and repair problems on their distribution networks so they can be resolved more quickly or avoided altogether.

Tollgrade and DTE Energy are paving the way for other utilities to follow their example to take proactive measures to prevent outages. To learn more about how Tollgrade’s LightHouse MV Smart Grid Sensors could help you prevent outages, download our Predictive Grid whitepaper.

Stayed tuned for our third installment of our blog series where we will discuss the multiple applications of sensors contrasted with the single application of FCIs. Make sure you subscribe to our blog to receive an email alert when Part three is available!

Download   Predictive Grid  Whitepaper

Topics: Sensors vs. FCI's

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