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Demystifying Intelligent Networks

Why the next wave of transformation is already upon us.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2006

T&D system along with connectivity and geo-spatial renderings are critical. This information will be used by the distributed/centralized self- healing/self-configuration systems to understand the connectivity in real-time based on the as-built model. The renderings will allow the operator to track the changes as they occur, allowing the systems to update the operational diagrams as the system state changes.

A stable outage management system (OMS) and data management system need to be in place. This is where the applications that perform self-healing/ self-configuration reside. The power system connectivity analysis and the associated real-time add-ons can assist the operator in making the right decisions.

Currently, this analysis is based on manual input by an operator. In the future, the analysis will be made based on real-time or near-real-time data provided by the sensors in the field. In addition, several other benefits will be made available to the operator, including intelligent alarming, electronic operating map, remote SCADA-based controls (as available), restoration switching analysis, planned switching, and clearance management.

These systems set the framework for the model, ensure the accuracy of the model is in place, and drive increased integration between T&D as well as facilitate the convergence of these two areas. An illustrative application architecture is shown in Fig. 1. Once the base applications are in place, the utility will be better positioned to handle the extra visibility and controllability afforded by the sensors.

Debunking Myth #3

While transmission is getting all the attention, the short- to mid-term focus should be on distribution. Most of the articles on intelligent networks have focused on transmission: high-temperature superconductors, predictive monitoring, self-healing grid, and new types of cable materials. Much of this is 10 to 15 years away.

Distribution tends to get overlooked. In fact, distribution has lagged much in terms of investment in almost all categories. It is not uncommon to have limited SCADA-based visibility or remote-control capability. Many utilities still rely on manual field-crew-based operations, and they depend on customer calls to locate outages. In addition, paper-based operations are quite common in many distribution operations control centers.

Many of the answers used in debunking Myths #1 and #2 show the steps that can be taken to get started on distribution and get the utility on a path to achieving benefits.

Debunking Myth #4

Maintaining the status quo can become quite expensive. Some of the benefit areas that need to be thought through follow.

Demand Growth. As demand grows, there will be an increased need to make additional T&D investments, followed by the need for new sources of power (either constructed or purchase from external sources).

Power Quality. As more power electronics-based devices get connected to the grid, they will affect the quality of power being delivered adversely, including voltage fluctuations and more harmonics in the system.

Reliability. Continued lack of sensors in the network will lead to a continued dependency on customer calls to identify outage locations. As customers get savvier, they will demand better power stability, leading to more potential fines for the utility by the PUC.

Aging Assets. Almost all the utilities in North