Distribution Automation

For many years utility industry has been aware of the vast benefits that can be derived from distribution automation programs to improve reliability and reduce costs. Lack of affordable technology was a barrier until the last decade with limited technological choices that were available. Even then, they usually came in at prices that were hard to justify. However, the recent, more capable and flexible technology coupled with falling price points have succeeded in reversing that trend. A key among these are the wide choice of communication products, especially wireless radios, that are popular in many DA installations all over the world. Many different DA programs such as Advanced Switching (improve reliability), Conservation Voltage Reduction (reduce costs), Distribution VAR management (improve efficiency) etc. can be easily and quickly deployed through commercially available technology.

APA routinely assists its clients in implementing a variety of DA programs through following services:

  • DA Programs Conceptual Design
  • Business Case Analysis
  • Technology Selection
  • Detailed Design
  • Implementation
  • Testing
  • Training

The following is a brief synopsis of popular DA programs that are gaining popularity with distribution utilities due their benefits

Automated Switching
Automated switching can be used for two purposes in a distribution network.

1) to automatically restore service to non-faulted sections after a permanent fault has occurred,
2) dynamic reconfiguration of the distribution network to prevent overloading thereby minimizing outage risks and achieve load balancing.

Substantial benefits in terms of reliability improvements can result from having remote control of switches on the distribution circuits, especially if the switches can operate automatically to reconfigure circuits and limit the extent of outages.

Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR)
Conservation Voltage Reduction or CVR is a low cost solution available for distribution electric utilities to reduce energy consumption and peak demand for short periods of time without a noticeable impact in power quality or service interruption to their customers. Typically, this is accomplished by slightly reducing the distribution feeder voltage at the substation, by the utility. For electricity consumers this will result in slight reductions in energy consumption thereby reducing their costs without any effort or need on their part to understand or modify their usage habits. Some utilities are using CVR to reduce their wholesale coincident peak demand costs, thereby accomplishing significant demand penalty cost savings. CVR also has the effect of reducing the distribution line losses for the utility while the CVR is in effect.

VAR Management
Modern distribution utilities are under constant pressure to reduce operating costs, improve system efficiencies and also improve power quality to their members. Consequently, VAR management on the distribution feeders to minimize the losses is a hot topic for many utilities. Adding capacitor banks to supply leading VARs is the most effective way to offset the lagging VARs from the loads. Many utilities install fixed capacitor banks in substations but this can only partially alleviate the problem. Further, the fixed capacitors are not capable of dynamically adjusting to the variations in the lagging VARs which results in sub optimal compensation of feeders most of the time. A more effective approach is to add switched capacitor banks, in addition to fixed capacitor banks, at a point closest to the reactive loads. This can be accomplished in various ways, however the pole top switchable capacitor tend to be preferred solution for many utilities. Through automation of these switched capacitor banks dynamic leading VARs can be dispatched in real time to match the varying load VARs to achieve maximum savings on energy loss on the distribution feeders.

Power Quality Management and Control
Modern day digital economy companies such as communication network carriers, internet service providers, data warehouses, banks, internet commerce establishments, and medical facilities heavily rely on high quality power. Power quality problems such as power surges, spikes, sags, line noise, frequency variations, switching transients or brownouts can have devastating effects on such companies often resulting in heavy direct and indirect monetary losses. Many studies have inferred that costs vary significantly based on the demand characteristics of the end-user. The process of effective remedy often starts with measurement and identification of the source of such power quality issues. While special devices can be installed to capture and store power quality events it may be possible to extract some or all of that information from digital intelligent electronic devices such as relays and controls found in modern substations and distribution automation controls. APA can help utilities to take advantage of such data to identify and improve the power quality with minimal capital expenditures.