Electrical Substation Monitoring

Electric power utilities are faced with an aging infrastructure, increasing risk of blackouts and brownouts, costly unplanned maintenance, security threats to remote facilities, and rising costs.

As part of a government/industry initiative, utilities are looking for ways to address these issues that will improve the reliability of electric power delivery while reducing costs. FLIR is participating in these efforts by working with various partners and utilities to improve the monitoring of electric substations. Through the use of FLIR's "smart" infrared cameras and automation software, impending equipment failures and security breaches can be detected anytime, day or night, at a remote monitoring location. The net effect is increased reliability and reduced cost.

Remote Monitoring of Critical Vessels

  • Supports US Smart Grid Initiative
  • Remote monitoring of critical substation components
  • Helps increase reliability without adding personnel
  • Ethernet and wireless connections to a central control room
  • See intrusions with live images on TV, PC monitor, or PDA
  • Obtain temperature readouts of overheating
  • Spot nonfunctioning equipment with low temperatures
  • Instantly trigger audible and visual alarms
  • Notify management via email and intranet connections
  • Works day or night in any weather – 24/7 operation

Failure Cause and Effect

The risk of blackouts and brownouts are increasing on the US power distribution grid due to its aging infrastructure, and a lack of automation systems that monitor the condition of critical equipment at substations and elsewhere on the grid. For example, transformer fluid leaks or internal insulation breakdown cause overheating that leads to failures, but many utilities don't have automated thermal detection systems that reveal these problems. In addition, the remote locations of many substations make them vulnerable to security breaches, which can be detected with automated infrared imaging systems.

Whatever the cause, a critical substation failure may cascade into series of failures. Indeed, aging substation infrastructure exacerbated the Northeast blackout of 2003, the largest in US history. The result was a massive failure of regional banking facilities, security systems, manufacturing plants, food refrigeration, communication networks, and traffic control systems. Of course, the electric utilities involved lost huge amounts of revenue and incurred enormous costs in getting their systems up and running again. The economic impact is thought to have exceeded $6 billion in the region.

Damage from a substation failure
FLIR cameras recognize differences in the heat signatures of electrical components

Smart Grid Initiative

To help modernize our electric power grid, the US Department of Energy (DOE) is establishing partnerships with public and private organizations that understand the need for new technology and operational methods. These organizations include the GridWise Alliance, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), US Department of Commerce, American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and many others that share a common goal of increasing the reliability and cost effectiveness of our power grid. A principal objective is to enable a smarter, more secure grid by employing innovative technology and equipment across a wide range of applications and enterprises.

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