Data and Integration Take Center Stage at DistribuTECH

Steven Brown, editor in chief

If you weren’t in Tampa for the DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition last month, I can sum it up for you in two words: data and integration.

OK, that’s a gross oversimplification. As always, DistribuTECH was very eventful; you can read all about it in the feature article on pages 8-12. But it’s no lie that I heard the words “data” and “integration” at just about every booth I visited in the exhibit hall. It didn’t matter whether it was an automated meter reading vendor, an outage management system vendor, a GIS vendor, a SCADA vendor or some combination of those. Data and integration were the prevailing buzzwords.

For AMR vendors, the spiel was about managing the mountains of data produced by new advanced metering systems. The AMR vendors I spoke with noted that their new mandate is to educate utilities about all the great things that can be done with those mountains of data: things like transformer load monitoring, time-of-use pricing and outage notification.

One well-known SCADA vendor also touted the value of data while showcasing a new outage management offering that takes advantage of real-time SCADA data, rather than incoming customer calls. Another vendor, this one in the geospatial realm, talked about transferring the concept of enterprise resource planning (ERP) over into the operations side of the business through a concept he called “operational resource planning” (ORP). Still another touted the benefits of integrating across the boundaries of enterprise systems and operational systems.

The key, I think, to all these discussions at DistribuTECH was that the systems themselves-be they AMR, GIS, OMS or SCADA systems-have become less important than the data the systems produce and the value that can be derived from integrating data from disparate systems. It’s not a new or revolutionary concept, but the buzz at DistribuTECH 2006 indicates that it’s quickly becoming conventional wisdom in the utility industry. Those old “data silos” are spilling into each other, and the “islands of automation” are finally being bridged to the mainland. ❮❮

Letter to the Editor:

The recent article, Technologies to Increase Transmission Capacity in your November/December 2005 issue addressed the need for increases in transmission system capacity. We applaud the companies mentioned in the article that are working diligently to solve this problem with a variety of unique solutions. The industry should also take note of some significant developments in the area of high temperature superconductor (HTS) cables.

On track for commercial introduction in the next few years, HTS cables will offer several compelling advantages. The very high power capacity and very small footprint of superconductor cables will make them much easier to site, even in dense, older urban areas. Their inherent controllability will allow larger amounts of power to be pumped, economically and reliably, into congested areas-transferred precisely to where it is needed to relieve congestion.

Three HTS demonstration projects are due to go on line in 2006, each utilizing a different cable architecture. These projects, ranging from substation distribution feeders to a nearly half-mile transmission cable, are located in Long Island, N.Y., Albany, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio. With strong government and industry support, HTS cables can provide a viable solution for the industry by the end of the decade.

John B. Howe
Vice President, Electric Industry Affairs
American Superconductor

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