Transitioning From A Reactive To A Predictive Grid

Tollgrade’s Smart Grid Sensors and Predictive Grid® analytics software bridge the gap to a modern grid.
Published: Tue 13 Oct 2015

The introduction of renewable energy sources combined with ageing infrastructure are presenting a new set of challenges for grid operators worldwide. New technologies can help transform our ageing twentieth century electric grid infrastructure into the grid we need in the twenty-first century,  which requires better situational awareness to prevent power outages.

Providing technology solutions to customers who run mission critical networks, helping them transition them from a traditional, reactive approach of running their network into a proactive, and ultimately predictive approach is not new to Tollgrade Communications. Tollgrade designs solutions that drive value today, upgradable over the air at no operating cost, bridging the gap to solve the problems of tomorrow.

With a 25-year legacy in the telecoms industry, Tollgrade identified comparable industry issues taking place within the electricity utilities sector. “We saw a similar convergence in the utility sector to what we saw in telecommunications, with the layering of data and ancillary services on top of the traditional network and the need to become more proactive and more predictive in identifying faults and preventing power outages,” says Erik Christian, Vice President of Smart Grid at Tollgrade.“The growing penetration of renewables on an ageing infrastructure and assets can cause stress on the grid and demands a new approach.”

Drawing from its software defined hardware and analytics experience, Tollgrade developed its LightHouse® distribution monitoring platform, comprised of software defined hardware and predictive analytics software.  “We use analytics to give utilities bite size pieces of business intelligence to help improve network operations,” says Mr Christian.

By way of example he cites Europe, where power outages cost nations close to €150 billion per year according to a Leonardo Energy survey. “With some 260 million customers connected to the grid, and with the majority of outages occurring on the distribution network, it is important to have improved visibility in order to prevent outages.”

This innovative technology and approach is discussed by Mr Christian in an Engerati briefing, Bridging the Gap to a Modern Grid with Predictive Grid® Analytics.

LightHouse distribution monitoring platform

Tollgrade’s LightHouse distribution monitoring platform enables utilities to improve the reliability, efficiency and power quality of their distribution systems and gain better situational awareness.

Unlike first generation fault indicators, Tollgrade’s LightHouse sensors lead the industry in inductively-powered medium voltage (MV) sensors that operate in very low current environments without the need for a battery, minimizing operational costs. Tollgrade’s solution also includes Predictive Grid Analytics designed to leverage rule-based identification patterns that can help prevent future outages and predict equipment failures.

The LightHouse solution comprises:

• Inductively powered MV sensors that operate as low as 3A without a battery

• LightHouse SMS software with Predictive Grid Analytics, providing the visibility and situational awareness needed for improved network planning and grid reliability

Inductively powered, highly accurate smart grid sensors for distribution lines

To provide high accuracy voltage measurement, Tollgrade recently released its award winning Power Sensor, a “super set” of the MV sensor functionality. The Power Sensor is the only smart grid sensor capable of monitoring real-time voltage on distribution networks to within 0.5% accuracy and is a fraction of the cost of an optical sensor. The Power Sensor can replace several separate physical devices such as fault passage indicators (FPIs), load loggers, current and voltage line post sensors, power meters, power disturbance recorders and phase ID trackers. [Engerati-Renewables Integration – Three Product Innovations]

LightHouse SMS software

The LightHouse platform also includes its SMS software with four layers of analytics. The software enables raw data capture, event classification, storage for reporting and trend analysis providing actionable intelligence.

With Tollgrade’s LightHouse platform, grid operators are better equipped to detect faults with real-time information and classify different types of line disturbances. These might include transient short-term events that may not directly lead to faults but can be precursors to more serious and prolonged outages. In addition, the system continuously monitors power quality and reliability issues across all three phases of a MV distribution network. LightHouse provides utility companies and DSOs with network visibility where it’s needed most by communicating real-time grid health data from the distribution network back to the utility operations centre.

“Through this technology utilities are able to migrate to the predictive grid of the future,”  says Mr Christian.

Path to a predictive grid

The following situations are examples of how Tollgrade’s LightHouse platform has helped improve grid reliability and prevent power outages:

• Power restoration following a fire at a primary substation of DTE Energy in Detroit [Engerati-DTE Energy Improves Power Outage Management With Smart Grid Sensors]

• Capacity monitoring for renewable energy integration in UK-based Western Power Distribution’s Project FALCON

• Active network monitoring of renewables on the grid for Western Power Distribution and Community Energy Scotland.

In the briefing Mr. Christian also discusses how the LightHouse platform was deployed at a large northeastern utility in the US, helping it to identify a faulty voltage regulator at a substation before its failure. This helped prevent a power outage for customers and costly repairs for the utility.

“These examples show we are working hard towards developing a dynamic, predictive grid, and supporting utilities towards a smooth transition,” says Mr Christian.

To learn more about how Tollgrade is helping bridge the gap to a modern grid with predictive analytics,  register here for the briefing.

Further reading

Predictive Grid Quarterly Report - Building a Predictive Grid for the Motor City

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