How outages are tracked and the tools used to restore power
Glance up to the sky and the answer likely lies above. Nine times out of 10 when those clear blue skies change, electric service is threatened.
How can you outguess Mother Nature? You can’t. But that doesn’t sway the Hoosier Energy Power Delivery team. It challenges them.
They are always monitoring the weather, and if a storm rolls in or lightning strikes, they are ready.
“To help us when the weather changes, we have an online program that helps us track storms including lightning strikes,” says Gary Brown, System Control Coordinator Outage and Planning, a 22-year veteran of system operations.
Load that can be restored by SCADA (electronic) control is restored quickly and member co-ops involved are notified. Distance fault recorders (DFRs), a tool Hoosier Energy technicians were instrumental in developing more than three decades ago, are invaluable in identifying the problem area within a very short distance of a fault.
“Using Distance Fault Recorders and switching diagrams, we can open up switches to isolate a fault and restore service as soon as possible,” said Brown.
The DFRs help system control identify where a fault is, but if it cannot be sectionized remotely from the control center, system control relies on power delivery personnel to locally isolate the fault and visually determine the cause.
The team’s ground assault comes in different forms including technological controls that divert energy to nearby lines while crews work to fix the problem area. Mobile substations can help crews keep energy flowing while working on equipment. Recently, a mobile substation was placed in service while crews replaced a transformer at the Jacksonburg substation.
Over time, the elements take their toll on the grid, contributing to equipment failure. Nearly half the sustained outages on the Hoosier Energy system are due to equipment failure or vegetation. High winds can upend trees, flinging them into a right-of-way in a matter of seconds while severe weather can cause the inner workings of the equipment to deteriorate.
Animals also cause outages. In January, a raccoon snuck into the Abington substation in Whitewater Valley REMC territory causing high-side fuses on the 69 kv side of the transformer to blow. Crews replaced the fuses and service was restored.
Accidents involving automobiles and farm equipment can take out poles or lines, causing damage to the system and potentially outages.
No matter the cause, every outage is recorded in an interruption report, charted and diagnosed to prevent a similar reoccurrence.
The biggest deterrent to an outage are the proactive measures the crews take to prevent one from occurring. Workers in the field perform routine checks of gauges, relays, switches and lines. Through the $248 million capitol work plan, grid improvements will encompass more than 250 projects across transmission, distribution, communication and network systems.