Austin Energy: A real-life advanced distribution management system (ADMS)



There has been a lot of talk about the move from distribution management systems (DMS) to advanced distribution management systems (ADMS). But precious few real-life examples.


That's why I was pleased to get this short case study from ADMS pioneer Austin Energy. Notice that it discusses two issues that concern almost every utility: 1) bandwidth and latency (can our communications network handle the data flow and do so fast enough) and network modeling (can we get an accurate picture of our power network). -- Jesse Berst


By Andrew Bennett and David L. Wood, P.E.


Severe weather is the number one cause of power outages, which cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars a year in lost output and wages, spoiled inventory, delayed production, inconvenience and damage to grid infrastructure. Creating a resilient electric grid is critical to reducing our nation’s vulnerability to severe weather. Furthermore, smart grid technology designed to increase resilience can improve the overall effectiveness of grid operations leading to greater efficiencies in energy use and reduced carbon emissions.


To move towards a modern, more resilient grid, utilities need to replace aging infrastructure and deploy smart grid technologies that enable improved communication with end users, greater visibility across operations, and more intelligent energy management.


How Austin Energy is approaching grid resilience

In Austin, providing a safer, stronger, more resilient power grid is a priority. Austin Energy, the country’s 8th largest community-owned utility, owns and operates transmission, distribution and generation for the Greater Austin area. Austin Energy and Schneider Electric are working together to build not just a smart grid, but a smart utility.


Reaching beyond the idea of the smart grid, the smart utility aims to enable activities such as

·         Enhanced customer engagement

·         Improved crew safety

·         New demand response capabilities

·         Greater visibility into operations from the transmission system to customer meters


The key to creating a smart utility and enabling all of these activities is making big data actionable. By integrating millions of data points into a single, straightforward, simplified user experience, utilities have the opportunity to drive greater visibility and ultimately make better decisions.


In its mission to turn data into useful information, provide more reliable service, and improve energy efficiency, Austin Energy decided to implement an advanced distribution management system (ADMS).


Austin's ADMS

Prior to rolling out the ADMS, Austin Energy conducted a pilot to assess the technical feasibility, as well as the costs and benefits of installing such a system. The pilot consisted of monitoring and control of various distribution automation devices over a Landis + Gyr mesh radio network.  Simultaneously, Austin Energy modeled a two-substation area to assess the validity of the geographic information system (GIS) model, as well as the model’s ability to effectively communicate the data needed to calculate and solve load flow and fault current. The pilot found the mesh radio network was able to handle the "last mile” of communication between the substation and various distribution automation devices. The pilot also demonstrated that Austin Energy’s GIS model could sufficiently provide the data needed to successfully run the advanced components of an ADMS.

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