Electrical utilities are challenged by contradictory requirements – improved reliability of distribution, less resources for maintenance and better financial performance. The solution is to reduce outage time and cut costs by utilising smart reclosers as part of network automation.
What do network automation solutions like reclosers have to offer that is so radical? The answer sounds too easy to be true. “More reliability, less outage time, lower costs, more profit, and happier customers”, lists Jean-Jacques Vaudiau, Sales Director of Export Markets at Ensto Novexia. “The continuity of electricity supply to every customer is the key. When that is managed as priority number one, all the other good stuff will follow.”
Overhead power lines in a medium voltage network are vulnerable to storms and trees, among other things. When damage occurs, it is common for large parts of the network to suffer from outages, and it often takes time to locate the problem. To avoid that, investments are necessary and regulators put more and more pressure on network utilities. In many cases, replacing overhead lines with underground cables is not possible, technically or economically. The solution is network automation with smart reclosers as key components.
Ensto Smartcloser is an automated pole-mounted vacuum technology recloser. It reduces outage duration and automatically isolates faulty sections of the distribution network. In 60 to 80 percent of cases, the causes of outages is temporary in nature, such as conductors clashing in the wind, tree branches striking overhead conductors, birds or other animals getting too curious or even a sudden thunderbolt nearby.
“Our solution – Smartcloser – is designed to reduce outages and therefore suits every utility that wants to save money. It maximizes income by keeping paying customers connected to the network. It also minimizes compensations to critical users like the process industry or hospitals.” Jean-Jacques Vaudiau says.
In most cases, rapid recovery is possible immediately after the incident and Smartcloser knows that. It clears the fault by closing and opening the connection several times. If the fault is permanent, the connection is left open. The solution is reliable and can be used in any medium voltage overhead lines.
Reconfiguring the network is easy with sectionalizers, which count the connection trials of the upstream recloser. The sectionalizer that guards the section against failure automatically opens the connection for repair, while others remain closed. With the help of sectionalizers, one upstream recloser can keep most customers connected, reconfigure the network and provide more precise information on the fault location to speed up the repair.
The Ensto Smartcloser is packed with innovation, quality, and experience. The design is resistant to harsh weather and challenging environmental conditions. The leading utilities know that the company has decades of experience in developing equipment and components for electrical networks. In recent years, Ensto has strengthened its position in network automation by introducing smart, up-to-date technology.
Ensto Smartcloser is an excellent example of this. It has a long lifetime, thanks to the high level of electrical endurance. An environmentally friendly vacuum interrupter, which does not use SF6, is premolded with silicone to enhance stability with epoxy. This represents reliability, along with electromagnetic actuators. The control unit, which includes electronics and communications equipment, is kept safe in a steel box.
Reliability and innovativeness in product design develops naturally in a company culture that has similar characteristics. In Jean-Jacques Vaudiau’s experience, Ensto Novexia has an excellent reputation among utilities. He sees company culture as a strength that takes time to build and is hard to beat. Being close to the customer, with a positive attitude of service and care, are built into everybody’s mind through years of forming a company culture.
“This also has something to do with our optimal size as a company, in that we are not too big or dominant in the market. It is true that we are present in 20 countries and have the resources that are equal to that. But still, we remain close to our customers, not forgetting that our task is always to bring them the best value for money possible. This feeling is hard to explain in words, but our customers know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“For all utilities, an outage means having to send crews out to repair the fault. Knowing where the fault is can be a major asset to the utility as this reduces crew time and cost and gets customers back online”, says Douglas Brown, Managing Director of Netcontrol UK Ltd. “Depending on the regulator, the utility may also suffer from additional penalties due to customer interruptions and minutes lost. Reducing outage time may also allow the utility to beat targets and therefore benefit from rewards.”
Network automation has a role in the future smart grid, but it depends on where the automation is located. According to Mr Brown, some utilities push the automation out in to field devices, others reduce the field devices’ complexity to make it easier for field crews to deploy and configure. “There is also the view that the future network will consist of micro-grids, which are in essence autonomous sections of a wider grid that are responsible for all the generation, distribution and consumption of energy within the micro-cell. Here, automation will play a major role.”
Reclosers are recognized by electric utilities throughout the world as an essential device for achieving their prime goal: providing maximum continuity of electric service to their customers, simply and economically. The control unit can expand the role of the Smartcloser in network automation with connections to SCADA. This enables a return on investment from day one for the future networks and smart grid.
For more information, please contact:
Thierry Crépieux, Director, Sales, Export Markets, Ensto Novexia, tel. +33147618797, firstname.lastname@example.org