By Jack Hubbard
Sr. Manager of Operations Technology
This month’s article is the last of a series of 4 describing the 4 strategies we are working on to improve our system reliability 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. We are accomplishing this without raising electric rates and ensuring long-term rate stability. To read the previous articles, click on Strategy #1, Strategy #2 or Strategy #3.
This month’s newsletter will focus on Strategy #4: Utilizing our fiber network and associated technologies along with our employee talent to quickly and remotely sectionalize damage to restore power to more homes and businesses faster.
As you might remember, we are focused on reducing the number of outages with the first 3 strategies of:
- Relocating or burying overhead lines where appropriate, Strategy #1
- Reducing the vegetation management cycle, Strategy #2
- Working with our power supply providers to improve transmission system reliability, Strategy #3
At the same time, outages may still occur in South Central Indiana REMC’s rural and heavily wooded service territory. The exposure to trees, animals, weather, and other causes for outages can be significantly reduced but not eliminated.
SCI has a radio communications network and software for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). This network allows SCI to operate and monitor equipment located inside substations that control energy flow in large areas. When this network was installed long ago, it was a significant improvement over having to dispatch employees to the substation for every operational need. It also helped reduce the length of large outages. It was a good first step.
The next step is to monitor and control devices outside the substations. Increasing the number of devices that are controlled allows for better sectionalizing. When we sectionalize, we reduce the number of members affected when outages occur by switching small sections of line and restoring as many members as possible, quickly, through remote operation.
This is no easy task. The challenge is that communicating with devices outside the substation’s specific boundaries can be expensive and unreliable.
Our fiber network allows devices to be reliably and remotely monitored and controlled in a significant area of its service territory. In areas where SCI’s fiber network will not be available in the next two years, SCI will use other communication options such as cell modems and fiber connections available from other telecom companies.
By the end of 2021, SCI plans to increase the number of communication-ready switching devices by almost 40%, from 100 in 2019 to 139 devices. By the end of 2021, 115 of these devices will have communications installed for remote operation. We will have increased our controlled devices by nearly 250%! And we expect communication ability will be added to even more devices in the future.
As we already do, whenever we make technology upgrades such as this, our SCI field personnel who handle outages prioritize the restoration of service to as many members as possible before removing the fault and leaving the area.
No matter what challenges the future might bring, rest assured that our mission remains the same. We will continue serving our diverse communities with innovative energy solutions and life-enhancing services.