Utilities Jump Into Weather Business

Because weather poses one of the most significant factors in predicting demand, an increasing number of utilities are relying on their own industrial-grade weather stations that monitor conditions locally, which saves significant money.

Enabling this micro control are modern industrial-grade stations that monitor weather parameters to exacting standards and act as sensors to provide analog or digital input directly into a utility’s business or operating system to provide greater control.

“Accurate weather monitoring has a direct economic impact,” said Luis Z. Cabeza, a power systems consulting engineer for Austin Energy, the nation’s eighth-largest community-owned electric utility. “It’s very valuable to your engineering approach.”

Weather Takes on Bigger Role

weather center

“On August 7, electricity consumption reached a new record for 2013 with 67,180 megawatts of load in the 5 p.m. hour,” stated an opening paragraph in the Dallas Business Journal two days later, citing figures from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. (ERCOT), the system operator for the state’s bulk transmission grid.

No matter the cause, global warming’s impact on utility operations can no longer be ignored. System operators must carefully and continuously monitor climactic conditions to keep tight rein on apportioning system demands.

Cabeza said ERCOT allows dynamic ratings for transmission lines, depending on temperature.

“Before 2010, we only had to worry about zones,” he said, “but now we must focus on critical transmission lines, congestion rights and nodal analysis to determine power losses, and weather comes into play.”

Ryan Deering, a substation and generation supervisor for Owatonna Public Utilities—a community-owned supplier serving 11,300 electric, 10,000 natural gas and 9,400 water customers in Minnesota—said inaccurate weather reporting can cause high-cost penalties for utilities.

“On really cold days, for example, the pipeline company may not let us increase our gas volumes in real time because the pipe is already full from other customers’ increasing their gas loads,” Deering said. “At that point, we’d have to look at our gas supplier for other options and help to stay balanced on the pipeline for that day.”

Avoiding such financial hits requires far more localized monitoring than the nearest TV station or Weather.com can provide.

Clouds block the sun in particular areas, and the difference in solar penetration shows up in generation demands, Cabeza said.

“Or we might notice that in one part of the city that the temp dropped down to 85,” he said. “What happened? But you look at your data from your own weather station and realize there was an isolated rain shower there. Things like that help you understand what’s going on and even help predict power demands.”

Higher Risk Requires Higher-Quality Monitoring

Whether too hot or too cold, meteorological micro analysis can be achieved only through high-quality, industrial-grade monitoring stations. Covering all the parameters requires a complement of sensors that monitor wind speed, wind direction, temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, rainfall and even solar radiation. All must deliver unerring accuracy and be durable enough to stand up to harsh conditions without failing in the field.

“Weather station accuracy represents an important piece of the process here,” Deering said. “We installed our first weather station in the mid-’80s. Of course, we now have upgraded to a modern station, but we continue to use the Texas Electronics weather sensors because their units have been very reliable.”

The Dallas-based company has been a pioneer and innovator in meteorological instrumentation since 1956. It offers individual gauges or complete weather stations that use high-quality, research-grade sensors protected by corrosion-resistant enamel coatings, all warranted to last three years and meet National Weather Service requirements.

Joe Green, a director at Owatonna Public Utilities, said accuracy can’t be trusted to a low-quality, consumer-grade unit from a big box store.

“Even knowing the exact wind speed and direction is a big factor when we order gas for the upcoming gas day,” Green said. “Increased wind will suck the heat out of homes—especially poorly insulated homes—faster, and they burn more gas in their furnaces to keep the house warm. This is especially the case when the wind is out of the north, so we must take into consideration the wind and direction to order the correct volumes ahead of time.”

weather station

Cabeza said workers used to feel comfortable working with transmission line ratings based on a temperature variance of 5 degrees.

“But the goal is to be more stringent in the future,” he said. “We installed Texas Electronics weather stations at six of our substations to more closely monitor conditions at each location. Additionally, we are an ISO9000-certified company, so our work needs to be calibrated and certified every year. We must maintain accurate instrumentation.”

Seamless Integration is Vital

Aside from the high quality of data gathered, industrial-grade sensors allow seamless integration into existing utility digital control systems. Standard industry outputs include 4-20 mA, but signal conditioners allow interface to virtually all data acquisition systems.

“Our weather station incorporates an internal interface to automatically convert its SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) data to feed directly into the DNP3 protocol we use at our utility,” Cabeza said.

The weather station also plays into a script in Deering’s SCADA master system, he said.

“The temperature and wind chill data are gathered at our substation, where a remote transmitting unit brings that info back into the headend,” Deering said. “This feed goes into our internal compute to help us figure how much gas we need to order that day.”

Better Data Acquisition Pays Off

Tight monitoring of local weather conditions benefits utilities and customers.

“If you know that the temperature, and hence demand, is not going to get too high, then you can push more amps through the line without worrying about things like line sag,” Cabeza said. “Having the ability to use the full capacity of the transmission lines benefits the utility, as well as the ratepayers.”

Deering said knowing the weather conditions helps him determine how much gas to order each day.

“There are risks of expensive penalties from the pipeline if your percentage of daily gas orders are way off order,” he said. “We lessen that risk with our weather sensors.”

Green incorporates the weather station results into billing statements mailed to customers, he said.

“This allows consumers to see the temperature difference between one year and the next,” he said. “It helps them understand whether the price of gas went up or if they simply used more, thus reducing calls to our customer service department with bill complaints.”

FPL Makes Account Management, Outage Reporting Easier From Mobile Devices

i phone

Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) has made it easier for customers to visit www.fpl.com from mobile devices to access their accounts, pay bills and enroll in E-mail Bill.

Customers also can report a power outage or get the latest information about an outage that is affecting their home or business with FPL’s newly optimized mobile Power Tracker Map, which provides near real-time information to customers who enter an address, city or ZIP code.

“While we deliver service reliability that is more than 99.98 percent, we know that any power interruption is an inconvenience for customers,” said Marlene Santos, FPL vice president of customer service. “With FPL.com being more mobile-friendly, it is easier for our customers to quickly access their account and report an outage anytime, from virtually anywhere. We want to offer our customers more convenience with which to manage their accounts and better plan their lives should they lose power.”

The map mirrors the information provided to customers who call FPL’s customer care center and is based on data that is updated every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. Clicking on an outage icon reveals detailed information, including:

  • The time the outage was reported;
  • The number of FPL customers affected by the particular outage;
  • The cause of the outage;
  • The latest status report on the progress of the restoration; and
  • The estimated time power will be restored.

Should power be lost, FPL strives to provide customers with an accurate estimate of when it will be restored. This estimate is based on factors including the cause of the outage, the current availability of restoration crews and equipment, weather conditions, and the complexity of the repair. Throughout the restoration, FPL may revise a restoration estimate if conditions change or new information arises.

FPL is the largest rate-regulated electric utility in Florida and serves the third-largest number of customers of any electric utility in the United States. FPL serves some 4.6 million customer accounts and is a leading Florida employer with some 10,000 employees.

Toronto Hydro Gets Gas-insulated Transformer Installation

Toronto Hydro
Toronto Hydro breaks ground in May on the $195 million Clare R. Copeland Transformer Station. Courtesy Toronto Hydro.

Toronto Hydro-Electric System’s underground transformer station soon will include Toshiba Gas Insulated Transformers (GITs), the first underground GITs installed in North America, to serve the load of the downtown Toronto core.

Toronto Hydro broke ground on the $195 million Clare R. Copeland Transformer Station in May. Named after the former Toronto Hydro chairman, the station is needed to relieve the existing nearby Windsor Transformer Station currently saddled at 92 percent capacity. The three-story underground station will be adjacent to the historic John Street Roundhouse and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2014.

“We are pleased to proceed with this urgently needed project to relieve strained electrical infrastructure downtown while ensuring compatibility with an architectural landmark unique to Toronto,” said Tom Odell, capital projects and electric vehicles manager at Toronto Hydro.

Toshiba GITs are one of the most technologically advanced solutions for hydropower and underground substations, densely populated cities and offshore substations. The traditionally hazardous oil insulation has been replaced with SF6 gas to offer a safer, more environmentally conscious and more economical transformer to overcome sharp increases in today’s demand for electric power. The SF6 gas is nonflammable, eliminating the risk of fire and reducing safety costs associated with otherwise required fire-extinguishing and oil collection systems.


Cyan chosen for Clean and Cool Mission Brazil

Cyan Holdings plc

Cyan Holdings plc, the integrated system design company that delivers wireless solutions for lighting control and utility metering, has been chosen to participate in the Clean and Cool Mission to Brazil in November.

Entrepreneurs from 17 British clean-tech companies have been selected for the mission organized by the U.K.’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, with The Long Run Venture and UK Trade & Investment.

The Clean and Cool Mission aims to foster partnerships between British clean-tech companies and Brazilian government agencies, businesses and investors. The companies will explore business opportunities aimed at tackling climate change and improving resource efficiency. Commencing Oct. 30, the 17 companies spent one week immersed in Brazil’s clean-tech business, innovation and investment communities in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo.

Brazil is experiencing rapid growth and industrialization, which is increasing the energy requirements of its large population. Renewable energy accounts for more than 80 percent of the electricity produced in Brazil. The country depends on hydroelectricity, which produces no emissions, but it is vulnerable to shortages in low-rainfall years, and demand soon will exceed this traditional supply. Electricity theft, or “nontechnical loss,” causes further problems.

Cyan has seen similar demand challenges and nontechnical losses in India and developed the CyLec electricity smart metering solution, deploying pilot projects across several regions of India. Cyan’s smart metering technology reduces nontechnical losses and ensures efficient consumption of Brazil’s renewable energy.

Cyan is building on its recent partnerships in smart lighting and smart metering in Brazil. In July, Cyan announced a partnership with Ilumatic to provide Brazil’s municipalities with CyLux, Cyan’s energy-efficient smart lighting solution. In September, Cyan announced a partnership with Nobre de la Torre to jointly develop hardware and software solutions for the power market within Brazil.

Nova Scotia Power selects Schneider to implement integrated smart grid solution

Nova Scotia Power

Nova Scotia Power has selected Schneider Electric to implement an advanced distribution management system (ADMS)-based outage management system (OMS) as an integrated smart grid solution to improve operational efficiencies and outage management response and restoration.

Currently in the implementation phase, the project will position Nova Scotia Power to meet increasing consumer demands for sustainable, reliable energy. The new solution uses the utility’s existing investment in Schneider Electric’s GIS technology, offering efficient network data and model management, and provides seamless, embedded OMS and DMS technologies. Using integrated voice response, work order management and crew dispatch capabilities, Nova Scotia Power will be able to efficiently monitor, analyze and manage its network of nearly 500,000 customers for more rapid response to power outages.

“This project represents a new trend in the smart grid industry: the integration of OMS as a seamless application of smart grid solutions to improve operational efficiencies and safety,” said Laurent Vernerey, executive vice president of Schneider Electric’s End User Business. “We are excited to be on the forefront of offering this advanced technology to utilities around the world.”

CG inaugurates 1,600-kV Ultra High Voltage Research Centre


Avantha Group Co. CG inaugurated its 1,600-kV Ultra High Voltage (UHV) Research Centre at its switchgear complex in Nashik, India.

CG has invested nearly $6.5 million to enhance its R&D capabilities to achieve global excellence in the UHV domain. The centre is a 21,786-square-foot, 118-foot-tall, electrical-noise-free infrastructure built with the latest testing equipment. This is a significant move toward fulfilling CG’s strategic objective of positioning itself as a sizeable player in the UHV arena in the world.

Prime markets for these products are India, South America and Africa, where such very high-voltage transmission networks are present. The centre facilitates reliable and economic new product development for the global UHV/Extra High Voltage (EHV) markets, spanning 800-kV EHV to 1,200-kV UHV power transmission systems. It is envisaged to be CG’s manufacturing and development hub for switchgear.

The centre will focus on research and development of high-power substation equipment such as circuit breakers (live tank and dead tank), gas-insulated switchgear, instrument transformers (current transformers/inductive voltage transformers/capacitive voltage transformers), transformer bushings, surge arresters and disconnectors with enhanced capabilities and at competitive prices. The centre is equipped with 1,600-kV AC and 3,600-kV, 360 kJ Impulse test systems to conduct all the dielectric performance tests per the latest global IEC, ANSI standards and other international product standards. It also will facilitate developmental research tests on new dielectric systems and products. This UHV infrastructure will help in the local manufacturing of UHV products, saving huge costs on imports to Indian customers.

Class Photos Help Line Students Get Jobs

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College's Electrical Power Distribution
Students of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Electrical Power Distribution program pose for their annual class photo. The instructor for this section is Dan Scheider, pictured in the cherry picker bucket along with lab aide Roger Carson.

Students enrolled in Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s (NWTC’s) Electrical Power Distribution program have found a way to get potential employers’ attention: They strike a pose.

Each year electrical power students in the nine-month program for people interested in being power line electricians take class photos to alert employers about the school’s program.

NWTC’s technical diploma is one of very few line worker education programs in the United States, and if the school and its students didn’t tell employers, few companies would know the program exists.

“So every year we produce a flyer that lists this year’s grads and their skills, and we send it to utility employers,” said Casey Fryda, the college’s media and communications consultant. “Due to the brochure—and program’s excellent reputation—NWTC students are regularly recruited by companies as far away as Colorado. One employer indicated interest in hiring every graduating student who hadn’t already accepted a job offer elsewhere.”

Fryda said the school doesn’t produce grad brochures for most of its programs because graduates of other programs tend to remain in the district where NWTC is already well-known.

“We do a photo every year, but the students in each class section decide how they’d like to be photographed, so this was their idea,” Fryda said.

There are two sections of students enrolled in the current program. The instructor for the section in this photo is Dan Scheider, pictured in the cherry picker bucket along with lab aide Roger Carson. The other class section, which includes football players, is led by instructor Pete Mleziva. In August, that section took a photo while tossing a football around atop power poles, Fryda said.

The NWTC Electrical Power Distribution program was founded in 1987. Unlike other college students, these students start in June and graduate in March—in time for utility construction season. It was set up this way at utility employers’ request.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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