According to Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s System Watch web portal, more than 140,000 of its roughly 800,000 customers lost power during the second of two Oklahoma supercell tornados on May 31.
Everyone wonders what is going on in the cockpit when the plane is stuck on the tarmac. In the modernized utility distribution control center, the operators have complete and current situational awareness of tens to hundreds of distribution circuits (OG&E has 1,100 circuits in its service territory), and sometimes more than a million meters. Like a pilot in the cockpit, grid operators will have stackable monitors, color coded visualization on a GIS-enhanced interface, and the capability to quickly zoom in on alarms and provide intel to assessor, restoration crew etc. Several such smart grid functions will have been used and useful in the overall effort of scouting, repairing, and managing outages in Oklahoma over the last 2 weeks.
On April 27, 2011, the resilience of Alabama Power Co. (APC) was tested in the most severe weather incident in the state’s history. The outbreak of tornados resulted in 239 deaths. Roughly half of Alabama Power’s 1.4 million customers were without power after more than 3,000 distribution transformers and twice as many poles were downed. Eight distribution substations were either damaged or destroyed and 400 transmission structures were broken. Yet, it took only 7 days for the utility to restore power.
The Next Generation
More than 10,000 mutual assistance resources were utilized, meaning restoration crews came from other states to help. The company took a decentralized and mobile command approach; it used 11 staging areas, each equipped with a distribution management system (DMS) to manage remote switching and other operational control. During less severe storms, APC operators can turn on an autopilot function (known as fault location, isolation, and service restoration, or FLISR) in the DMS to speed up service restoration, saving thousands of customers from sustained outages every year. The smart utility’s goal is to minimize customer impacts by reducing restoration time when major events occur. Utilities are looking to information technology / operational technology (IT/OT) integration and increased mobility to assist with outages.
In the event of outages, utilities rely on operational systems to notify customers of causes and estimated restoration times. Next-generation DMS will be integrated with outage management to provide additional inputs for visualization and decision support to better address impacted areas.
Advanced workforce management (WFM) solutions that enable utilities to forecast, schedule, dispatch, and monitor progress of outage crew have gained increased interest. WFM is carried out with the assistance of outage management tools that analyze outage reports to determine the scope of outages and the likely location of problems. An outage management system (OMS) or a DMS compiles information on the times and locations of customer calls, smart meter outage notifications, and fault data from substations and monitoring devices on feeder lines.
Some utilities are reporting that the integration of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) has given them the capability to reduce outage time by being able to confirm if meters have power or not. AMI plays out in two different stages of restoration:
- After performing restoration work in a given area, service at all the meters can be confirmed quickly and remotely before crews move onto the next area.
- Individual complaints are followed up on in the wrap-up phase of a large storm restoration effort.
Traditionally there are always a lot of single customer outages that end up being “OK on arrival”, meaning a technician was dispatched with a ticket to restore power only to find out power has already been restored. By confirming power has been restored via AMI and backing that up with a phone call to the customers, hundreds of truck rolls are saved in large storm events.
Tags: Demand Response, Grid Resilience, Natural Disasters, Smart Utilities Program, Utility Innovations
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