Breakthrough? Why and how to triangulate your data (and the missing link that lets it happen)



We already collect reams of data from meters and substations. Yet there is still a "missing link" -- a portion of the grid that remains largely invisible. I'm referring to the stretch between the substation and the meters. The US alone has 2.2 million line miles between substations and meters along with 50 million distribution transformers.


A new wave of low-cost sensor technology now makes it possible to light up that portion of the grid. I know Alan Snook from our work together on the Smart Cities Council. When I heard from him about his firm's progress in this area -- and about their approach to "triangulating" the data -- I asked if we could share it with you. - Jesse Berst


By Alan Snook


The most volatile part of the grid is neither behind the cyclone fence of a substation nor at the relatively static endpoint meter.  Rather, it is the area between the substation and the meters. As a trip around the January 2014 DistribuTECH revealed, there is growing recognition of the need to solve this "missing link." 


This expansive, vulnerable section experiences interruption threats from wind storms, ice storms, lightning strikes, tree limb touches, fallen trees, vehicles severing line poles, transformer failures, asset fires, blown fuses, etc...  One large Canadian utility reports that its distribution system experiences more than 200 such events every day. Now couple that vulnerability with the fact that the US alone suffers annual losses from energy theft of $6 billion.


If we remedy this serious gap, we can get vastly improved operations oversight along with heightened revenue protection. A distribution transformer monitor (DTM) is retrofit onto distribution transformers. The moment it is installed, the transformer morphs from a simple workhorse into a valuable intelligent node that perpetually reveals critical data.