Within the last few years, we have seen a series of Grid incidents that had major human, environmental and economic impacts.  

In the US, PG&E is accused to be the main cause of California’s 2017-2018 deadly wildfires, including the most destructive fire in the State history, killing 85 people and destroying the Town of Paradise. Fires were most likely started by the Utility infrastructures, including toppled power lines due to strong winds and vegetation on electrical lines.

In the UK, the major power outage of last August was due to a steep drop in the Grid’s overall frequency after a lightning strike hit a power line, disconnecting a gas-fired power plant and an off-shore wind farm almost simultaneously.

Grid operators around the world are facing major everyday challenges and they are turning to new technologies to better address them. Smart Grid technologies and services aimed at allowing operators to enhance their overall performance, increase the penetration of intermittent resources and decrease the risk of major incidents as recently witnessed.

For instance, National Grid had to commission a time-consuming investigation report to be able to confirm that a lightning strike was at the origin of the incident. In such a situation, Omexom proposes its customers to make use of automated fault analysis and classifying systems, which allow Transmission System Operators to better identify and locate quicker a transient fault on the Grid and therefore decrease downtime.

Lightning in the night sky over the boiler house and power lines

In addition to better emergency response, preventing incidents can bring tremendous value to grid operators. In that regard, Omexom has developed several specific solutions based on digital technologies including the 3 followings:

As witnessed in California, poor vegetation management can have disastrous consequences. Omexom developed with Transpower (New Zealand) digital tools to survey and anticipate the growth of the vegetation and the potential risks faced by the transmission lines.

Omexom has developed the Existing Vulnerability Evaluation (EVE) method to enable grid operators and wind farms owners to predict the residual life of their mechanical assets (e.g. wind turbines, transmission towers) as well as their resilience in a changing environment or due to a modification in their operation and design. This method is particularly adapted in the perspective of extending the lifetime of a wind farm or a repowering project.     

Also, by assessing the general condition of the timber poles of a distribution network through the scanning technology “Woodscan”, Omexom allowed Powercor (Australia) to postpone the replacement of many poles which were identified as unserviceable, saving almost 10M€.

These technologies also generate data that add up to the large amount of data that TSOs and DSOs can use to improve asset management or operational planning. While this data could be used for numerous applications, it is still a largely untapped resource, either because it is not collected properly or not used. Solutions integrators who have a great knowledge of field operations are great partners to help to gather relevant data and designing tailor-made solutions to answer the specific needs of TSOs and DSOs, helping them improve their operational excellence.