As the effects of climate change become more evident, electric utilities are facing an increased risk of weather-related events that can cause power outages. Severe storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters can all cause significant damage to power infrastructure, leading to long-term power outages and substantial economic costs.
In response, utilities are adopting storm-hardening measures to improve the resilience of their power systems and minimize the impact of weather-related events.
Storm hardening involves making changes to the design, construction, and operation of power systems to reduce their vulnerability to weather-related events. These changes may include reinforcing transmission and distribution lines, burying power lines, installing backup power sources, and improving communication systems.
Storm hardening measures are designed to minimize the impact of weather-related events by reducing the frequency and duration of power outages, improving response times, and minimizing the risk of damage to power infrastructure.
One critical component of storm hardening is having good field data. Utilities must have a thorough understanding of their power systems’ vulnerabilities and risks to implement effective storm-hardening measures. This requires collecting and analyzing data on the performance of power systems during weather-related events and identifying areas of weakness.
As an example, utilities usually have certain territories within their service areas that seemingly have an inordinate amount of outages. There can be many reasons for these outages (traffic, microclimates, etc.) but one of the biggest problems occurs when there is too much load at the top of the pole.
The use of the pole’s real estate adds to the stresses the pole endures during inclement weather. Add to that the loss in the pole’s resiliency from additional holes and harnesses put into the hole by third parties. Frequent and accurate inspection of the poles is necessary to determine the size of the problem. Utilities can then use this data to develop comprehensive storm-hardening strategies that address vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of power outages.
The importance of good data in storm hardening cannot be overstated. Without accurate and reliable data, utilities may implement ineffective or incomplete storm hardening measures that do not adequately address their power systems’ vulnerabilities. In some cases, utilities may even make decisions based on faulty data, leading to costly and unnecessary investments in storm hardening.
Despite the benefits of storm hardening and good data, many utilities still face challenges in implementing effective storm hardening strategies. To ensure good data for storm hardening, utilities must invest in monitoring and data collection technologies.
One significant challenge is the cost of storm hardening measures, which can be substantial, particularly for smaller utilities. Additionally, some utilities may lack the tools, expertise, or resources to collect accurate field data.
Fortunately, powerful tools exist to help make data collection more accurate while also collecting information safely and easily.
Field data collection devices that combine multiple tools such as GPS, laser rangefinder, calibrated image capability, and a user-friendly app are changing the ways pole data are collected. Such technology is helping to increase data collection efficiency by reducing the possibility of human error from manual calculations and improving safety by eliminating the need for data collectors to carry a heavy Hasting stick in the field.
Back in the office, pole load analysis software allows for the thorough and accurate analysis of the data acquired in the field and the subsequent construction of accurate network models. With pole load analysis (PLA) conducted with software such as IKE’s PoleForeman, utilities can perform detailed structural analysis to identify areas of their network that might be more at risk in a severe weather event. The results of this analysis can be fed into the utility’s Geographic Information System (GIS).
GIS data provides a comprehensive view of the power system, including the location and condition of power lines, transformers, substations, and other critical infrastructure. By analyzing the data with PoleForman or another PLA software, utilities can identify potential vulnerabilities in their power systems and develop storm-hardening strategies to address them.
GIS data is essential in storm hardening efforts as it provides critical information on the location and condition of power infrastructure, as well as potential vulnerabilities to weather-related events. GIS data can also be used to inform storm hardening strategies, such as the placement of backup power sources and the reinforcement of power lines.
One example of a utility that has invested heavily in storm hardening and data collection is Florida Power & Light (FPL). FPL has implemented a comprehensive storm hardening program that includes the installation of more than five million smart meters, which provide real-time data on power consumption and grid performance.
FPL has also invested in advanced weather modeling tools that allow them to predict the impact of hurricanes and other weather-related events on their power systems. By using this data to inform their storm-hardening strategies, FPL has been able to significantly improve the resilience of their power systems and minimize the impact of weather-related events.
Accurate field data and pole load analysis are essential in storm hardening efforts as they provide critical information on the location and condition of power infrastructure, as well as potential vulnerabilities to weather-related events.
When combined with GIS data, these tools can be used to inform storm hardening strategies, such as the placement of backup power sources and the reinforcement of power lines. Ultimately, the use of PoleForman data and GIS in storm hardening can improve the resilience of power systems, reduce the weather economic costs associated with power outages, and ensure the safety and well-being of communities during weather-related events.
John J. Simmins is the Executive Director of the NYS Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT) at Alfred University. In this position, he supports sponsored research for approximately 50 engineering faculty and 50 graduate students. Alfred provides undergraduate and graduate degrees in Renewable Energy Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, as well as Glass and Ceramic Engineering. Dr. Simmins spent ten years at EPRI as a Technical Executive before going to Alfred. At EPRI he studied the intersection of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and geospatial information systems. He holds a B.S. and Ph.D. in Ceramic Engineering from Alfred University.
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