Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shining the light on outage prevention

Today marks the infamous 10th anniversary of the August 14, 2003 blackout of the eastern United States.  The massive outage, or megablackout, determined to be the result of a tree branch in Ohio initially taking out a 345kV line, compounded by cascading failure, affected over 50 million people with an economic fallout estimated at ten billion dollars. 

Over the past decade, a great deal of effort has gone into reducing the chances of a similar widespread outage occurring in the future.  Areas of success include the creation and strengthening of standards associated with the planning and operation of power systems, and the application of new technologies, particularly Phasor Measurement Units (PMU) -- a technology driven by the same GPS technology driving the universal mapping functions in our phones and other applications -- to situational awareness. 

Despite these advances, as more recent incidents demonstrate, more work remains to be done.  Fundamental components, such as transmission lines and transformers that make up the grid, need to be updated and added to meet current needs and the desire to support new generation sources including wind, solar and natural gas fired plants.  When it comes to the potential for cascading outages of the grid, techniques for consistent analyzing these events prior to their occurrence and identifying cost effective remedies are still in their infancy.

Commonwealth Associates is an active participant in planning, identifying, and implementing such solutions and we always welcome opportunities to discuss techniques and collaborate in creating solutions.  For information about our Transmission Grid Analytics - Cascade Analysis (TM) software that helps to prevent future blackouts, click here.  In a nutshell, it provides:
  • A verifiable and complete list of “breaker-to-breaker” contingencies
  • Identification of ALL contingencies that cause violations and a direct or indirect assessment of all double (Category B and C) contingency combinations
  • Analytical methodology to supplement your engineer’s experience and judgment
  • Objective, repeatable, and reasonable classification of contingencies that cause A/R violations into those that will not cause outages beyond a predetermined area and those that cannot be eliminated as potential causes for widespread outages
  • Priority list of trouble facilities that identifies and suggests root causes for contingencies that may initiate widespread outages
  • Independent evaluation of your system suitable for use as compliance documentation that management can include in their "due diligence" reporting
  • Custom solutions

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


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