UK Power Networks tests innovative approach in successful field trials

UK Power Networks has prevented the recurrence of more than 150 power cuts in the last year, using smart tech to find and fix faults faster.

The company has been field trialling cutting-edge technologies designed to locate and proactively repair faults before they interrupt customers’ supplies. This increases network resilience and reduces customer interruptions caused by transient faults.

Specialist field teams have been successfully carrying out preventative cable work and UK Power Networks is stepping up investment in proactive network management technology in the next five years to further increase network reliability and reduce the effect transient faults have on customers.

Traditionally, transient faults on low voltage circuits occur several times before faults can be traced and repaired. Equipment is being used to identify ‘network disturbances’ that are indicative of emerging faults and determine potential fault locations. The new approach in using the technology is enabling proactive detection and intervention, before the fault becomes permanent, improving reliability and customer service.

Engineers across several areas are applying:

  • Bidoyngs, devices which automatically restore supplies after a transient fault and provide fault locations
  • VisNet Hubs, real-time low voltage circuit monitoring devices which help with pre-fault detection, fault location, cable condition assessments and the targeted installation of automatic restoration equipment

Nick Carey, Operations Manager in the Chilterns, an early adopter of the new approach, says, “We have intercepted 27 faults before they became permanent. I believe this will revolutionise the way we work.

“Digging up faults nobody knows about except us, before customers go off supply, could be the future. As the equipment develops even further, we can use these more widely across the network to find a fault, dig and repair it.

“The holy grail of proactive network management is to reach the point where a device detects when and where a cable is drawing abnormal current before the cable even blows a fuse.”

Jack Howard, a field engineer in Hemel Hempstead, says, “We have had great success this year in the Chilterns with the roll-out of proactive fault repairs and I believe it is working well across the business. We have seen the positive impact on our customers and improved reliability. We have proved the investment in Bidoyngs and VisNet hubs works in our local area.”

Chris Lowsley, LV Product Manager at EA Technology says, “It is great to be involved with such a proactive initiative helping UK Power Networks to improve the management of their electricity networks. We are particularly happy to see the VisNet Hub LV Monitoring equipment being used as the eyes and ears of the network in order to detect and locate electrical disturbances in good time before any loss of power occurs. This forms the foundation for the UK Power Networks faults teams to proactively intervene and ‘fix before fail’ whilst improving the quality of supply to customers. This is clearly the future for managing LV networks.”

Jorone Taylor-Lewis, Account Director, Kelvatek says, “We’ve been working together with UK Power Networks to promote the potential benefits that proactive fault management with our Sapient Service and Bidoyng reclosers would bring, so it has been a real pleasure to see those results come through in these field trials.”

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