UK Power Networks tests fault warning systems

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UK Power Networks is installing DNV’s Smart Cable Guards to provide early warning of potential power failures.

The installation, part of a £435,000 ($604,000) innovation trial by UK Power Networks, has been done at two sites in the southeast of England and is being expanded to a total of 20 sites in the region.

The Smart Cable Guard is a sensor-based digital monitoring platform to detect and locate faults and weak spots in underground power cables.

The technology is said to be sensitive enough to detect electrical disturbances lower than the power of a standard mobile phone charger on an industrial electricity cable that serves around 5,000 properties. When a disturbance is detected, engineers can be alerted to its presence with its location to within a few metres to enable timely replacement.

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The Smart Cable Guard project follows results from the company’s collaboration with SP Energy Networks, which has placed Radiometric Arc Fault Location devices on its network. These RAFL devices locate the position of arcing faults on overhead lines.

UK Power Networks also is collaborating with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks to trial Distribution Fault Anticipation devices, which monitor voltage and current to detect disturbances on the network.

The company also plans to begin testing later this year on the £1.8 million ($2.5 million) MILES system at several sites.

MILES (Maintenance Intelligente de Lignes Électrique or Intelligent Maintenance of Electric Lines) developed by Hydro-Quebec and CGI uses low voltage power quality sensors to detect disturbances in overhead cables. Up to 30 sensors will be tested for around six months, from this Autumn, to detect where potential faults could happen.

“Our most fundamental purpose is ensuring safe and reliable power supplies for our customers. With these new trials we’re continuing to invest, improve our performance and put our customers first,” says Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks.

These projects form part of UK Power Networks’ continued efforts to reduce the frequency and duration of power cuts. From 2011-2020 the company claims to have almost halved the number of power cuts to achieve 99.9% power reliability.