A local utility company is testing new technology designed to catch problems with the electrical grid before outages occur.
Foremost among several potential benefits, is the ability to prevent electrical equipment from starting wildfires.
Distribution Fault Anticipation, or DFA , is smart grid technology that monitors overhead power lines and detects low level electrical disturbances.
It relays information about disturbances caused by weather, trees falling on power lines or deteriorating equipment to utility operators so they can fix problems before equipment fails.
“It serves as an extra set of eyes that will monitor distribution lines in areas of high wildfire risk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Prent ten Pas, Director of Member and Public Relations, Central Electric Cooperative. “When it detects disturbances, it will notify our dispatch center within seconds. This gives us an opportunity to fix a problem before an outage can occur or prevent our equipment from contributing to ignition of a wildfire.”
One way to think about how the DFA software works, is to compare it to the diagnostics on your car.
Every time you get in your car and turn the key or push the engine start button, the dashboard lights up.
The car tests all the systems.
If there’s anything wrong, one of those lights remains on or you get a tone, and you need to have the vehicle serviced.
Central Electric is the first cooperative in the state to test Distribution Fault Anticipation software.
By year’s end, 10 DFA monitors will be installed along CEC power lines that pass through areas of high fire risk.
“It’s going to tell us where the problems are, the approximate location and what we should be looking for, whether it be a tree limb, an animal, or maybe a person with a kite,” said Brad Wilson, Director of Operations and Engineering, Central Electric Cooperative. “They are going to be able to feed that information to us before we dispatch our crews which is incredibly helpful in the restoration efforts.”
The new technology costs about half a million dollars and will not affect rates paid by Central Electric’s 31,000 customers.