New frontiers in self-healing power systems to boost network reliability

Thousands of homes and businesses across the South East and East of England will have better power supplies thanks to the latest self-healing power systems. Britain’s biggest electricity network operator, UK Power Networks, is rolling out Primary Outage Restoration Tool (PORT) software, developed with GE Digital, which reconnects supplies faster via healthy alternative circuits following an Extra High Voltage (EHV) fault.

The new software builds on the success of Adaptive Power Restoration System (APRS), which has already delivered 25% faster reconnections on first-generation template automation on the high voltage 11,000 and 6,600-volt system, by extending benefits to the extra high voltage 33,000 and 132,000-volt networks. PORT is the first electricity automation scheme to use the APRS system to reroute electricity supplies via the 11,000-volt network after a fault on the EHV electricity network.

PORT has no limit on the number of operations it can perform but during one event it carried out up to 23 remote control switching operations within three minutes, to safely reconnect supplies quicker after faults on equipment such as power lines, cables and substations. Manually rerouting power supplies can take up to 30-minutes or more to complete. PORT automates the checking and switching process, restoring supplies in under three minutes in many cases.

PORT has been deployed at around 210 primary substations in the South East serving two million customers and there are plans to roll it out across 460 sites across the East of England, covering another 3.63 million customers. Since it was deployed in the South East in 2020, more than 72,000 homes and businesses have benefited from quicker reconnections in under three minutes.

John Duller, control systems and automation manager at UK Power Networks, says: “Driving continuous improvements in network reliability and safety underpins all our work. Over the years we have invested in remotely controlled devices and automatic schemes to restore supplies quicker to homes and businesses, which depend on this essential infrastructure.

“Two EHV circuits normally feed a primary electricity substation, which typically serves between 10,000 and 20,000 customers. If one is out for maintenance and a fault occurs on the other circuit, protection isolates the fault then PORT analyses the outage and alternative circuits. It then keeps restoring supplies until it can no longer do anything else. If we were working by hand on the control desk we would need to restore supplies in sequence. PORT can run all the checks in parallel to get most supplies back within three minutes.

“The development of an extra high voltage APRS, known as PORT, continues the systems collaboration with GE to be worldwide industry leaders in the field.”

Jim Walsh, General Manager for GE Digital’s Grid Software says: “UK Power Networks is a leader in providing innovative solutions to meet customer needs. We are delighted to be a partner with UK Power Networks as we work together to develop products and technology that help the electric grid to be smarter, more flexible, and more reliable.”

Before restoring supplies, the software completes safety checks into whether there have been people on site, recent switching and checking load. It traces network conditions at the time of the fault, using the latest information. The system can also be used in planning mode for outage planning. For example, engineers could simulate what would happen if power was lost at the site, then identify and address any issues with the contingency arrangements.

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