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ABB keeps the lights on

Three cities use ABB technology to avoid potential power outages

Have you ever experienced an electrical fault? Perhaps you have been in darkness during a storm or in an elevator that shudders to a stop. In those moments, we hope that the electricity is restored as quickly as possible. Yet, electrical faults within a power network can cause a lot more harm and damage critical electrical infrastructure. Indeed, a fault could even potentially shut down an entire power system

Stop one: New York, USA

That is what happened in New York in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit Manhattan, causing flood damage that resulted in widespread power outages. The impact was severe and the operating utility partnered with ABB to ensure it never happens again: its main substation that powers Lower Manhattan replaced conventional infrastructure with digitally-enabled technology, such as fiber optic cables. Today, the utility company can obtain data and business intelligence on critical pieces of equipment to make faster decisions during a crisis, and reduce the likelihood of – or completely avoid – future outages.

The devastating impact of a potential power outage is precisely why utility companies need to be able to detect a fault or to identify conditions that could lead to a fault. This is essential to making sure there is a reliable and safe electricity supply.

The best way to avoid power outages or – if they happen – to reduce the length of the outage is with an automated fault management system. This enables an engineer to detect, isolate and automatically restore the grid, if necessary. It also means avoiding the need to send a service engineer to trace and repair a fault.

Stop two: Kolkata, India

Five years after New York’s hurricane, a substation that supplies electricity to thousands of homes in Kolkata, India, faced an issue in August 2017 when a fault in the network triggered a major electrical trip. This circuit malfunction had the potential to cause extensive physical damage to the grid’s infrastructure from overheating. These kind of circumstances can lead to irreversible damage and loss of power for tens of thousands of people.

But since the substation was equipped with ABB distribution automation technology, the fault event was marked by a simple automated message sent to the substation controller: “33kV GIS tripped at 00:46:51 hrs. All supply restored at 00:46:52 hrs through self-healing scheme.”

The Remote Terminal Unit-based distribution automation system meant that the utility could automatically restore its 33kV power grid through “self-healing” – in other words, detecting, isolating and restoring the fault with a minimum of human intervention.

Stop tree: Shanghai, China

Reducing in the frequency and duration of power interruptions significantly improves performance for utility companies. In Pudong, Shanghai’s bustling financial district, a state-of-the art ABB Fault Detection Isolation Restoration system (FDIR) protects the power supply to ensure an impressive 99.999% reliability – referred to as “five-nines”.

ABB’s own analysis shows that grid operators and owners can reduce outage times by up to 81% when they use an automated fault management system. This means that operational costs are potentially cut by half. But, most importantly, it can bring major benefits to the electricity consumers who simply want reliable, uninterrupted power.

So, the next time you notice the lights flicker, but stay on, think about the technology that may be behind keeping them on. A technology that is invisible to you, but working tirelessly in the background. It can make the difference between becoming a national news headline or an uneventful automated message.

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