Welcome to the January 2019 edition of Utility Products. Power line inspections are an expensive, time-consuming affair. As Isaac Bruns notes on page 4, there are basically three traditional methods of inspection: walk, drive or fly. But walking or driving can be nearly impossible in remote areas or rough terrain, and flying…well, at $4,000 per day, renting a helicopter (or buying your own for a cool $2 million) is a spendy choice. Drones — and specifically fixed-wing drones — are quickly emerging as a cheaper, cleaner and quieter alternative.
Extreme weather phenomena are on the rise, and with them comes an increase in utility outages. As Don Leick explains on page 8, response is critical to successfully managing severe weather catastrophes and new weather intelligence technology is supporting utilities before, during and after storm events.
Continuing the topic of outage response, Lily Ho explores how today’s smart infrastructure solutions, such as grid monitoring with smart grid sensors and software-based fault detection solutions, can provide utilities with both supplemental outage notification and locational data without the need for relying on customer reporting. Turn to page 10 to read more.
On page 13, get a peek at some new tools from Milwaukee designed specifically for the challenges associated with maintenance of distribution lines: a utility bucket light built to survive high voltage and extreme conditions; a utility knife with a blade that stays sharper longer when stripping cable; an underground cable cutter that pairs with a wireless remote, allowing linemen to distance themselves further from a cut; and tough utility storage bags with puncture-resistant knife pockets and lots of other pockets for various tools and accessories.
According to NERC regulations, relays must be tested for proper operation every six years — but done improperly, relay testing can be a very dangerous task. Relay test switches enable technicians to safely perform necessary testing and maintenance duties and, as you’ll learn from Steve Lytle on page 15, there are new designs on the market that are safer to operate and pose significantly less risk to those operating them.
Alaska’s North Slope is in the untamed part of the state where wild animals don’t respect project boundaries and extremely harsh weather conditions can make outdoor tasks challenging to say the least. In one example, outlined on page 18, techs needed to test more than 1,400 fiber links bidirectionally in the dead of winter. Using a tool from Fluke Networks, the technicians were able to test and analyze two fibers in a single test — and complete the task in nearly half the time, minimizing exposure to the elements.
The use of a decentralized grid — or microgrid — holds promise for delivering critical backup power (and even mainstream power for more remote communities). For many, though, it comes with reliance on environmentally unfriendly diesel generator technology. However, as Gil Shavit discusses on page 20, there’s now a clean solution that’s ready to replace diesel generators: the modern fuel cell.
Substation outages attributed to climbing (or slithering) critters are a near daily occurrence — and represent a pressing and expensive concern. These types of outages can leave thousands of people without power and cost millions of dollars in repairs. Deterrent fencing is one way to keep curious critters out of your substations. Learn more on page 23.
Hazard and warning lights for utility and construction vehicles enhance visibility and ensure safety on the roads. Historically, these have been halogen or gas-discharge lights, but as the lighting world continues to transition to LEDs, these hazard and warning lights are now available in low-electrical-consumption, long-life models that far exceed traditional halogen or gas-discharge options. Read this enlightening (see what I did there?) article on page 25.
And, as always, we’ve compiled the latest and greatest utility products to hit the market in our New Products Showcase, starting on page 27.
– Angela Godwin, Chief Editor