Peace of Mind Through Technological Innovation
It takes a great deal of ingenuity to find cost-effective ways to bring 20th century infrastructure into today’s era of real-time data-driven technology. Veridian is committed to maximizing reliability through “smart” systems – everything from its 24/7 system control centre, complete with a table-sized touchscreen map of its service territories, to automated switching systems that offer the potential to restore power to customers affected by an outage within the first five minutes of an event. Veridian shareholders and customers alike benefit directly from the improved performance of a company that’s an early adopter of technology; in several cases even developing customized solutions in-house.
Taking control with a new SCADA system
Veridian replaced its supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system in 2013, an investment in communications technology that singlehandedly upgraded the most critical piece of equipment in the company’s 24/7 system control centre.
The SCADA system monitors and directs the automated aspects of Veridian’s electricity infrastructure, ensuring prompt response to problems and proactive assessment to avoid future issues. Unlike the previous 12-year-old system, the new SCADA system is completely compatible with today’s “smart” technology. Now, Veridian can add an outage management system, increasing real-time visibility from the system control centre of what is happening in the field and allowing for more immediate response to issues. Over the next couple of years, Veridian will expand its new SCADA system to include an advanced distribution management system.
With this technology in place, system control centre operators will be able to monitor system loading, disturbances and power quality so that the company can take corrective action before customers experience any issues (shown above).
Veridian’s ‘smart’ transformers: more than meets the eye
In 2013, Veridian collaborated with a transformer and meter manufacturer, a communications company and a system integrator – all from the local area – to develop a revolutionary “smart meter” for the company’s pole-top and pad-mount transformers.
The new system will put real-time communication capability into transformers, allowing them to send status and loading information directly to Veridian’s system control centre. There will be three direct benefits for customers.
- Immediate notifications of outages will be sent by affected transformers, allowing operators to pinpoint the location of the outage and then pre-emptively connect with customers impacted by the event to provide restoration updates.
- The smart transformer will include a thermal sensor that will inform operators when a transformer is overheating due to excessive load. With wide-spread adoption of electrical vehicles on the horizon, overloading is a growing concern for utilities.
- Where discrepancies exist between a home’s smart meter reading and the loading shown on the transformer, the system operators’ attention will be drawn to situations where theft of electricity could be occurring.
A key challenge of the project was adding all of this “smart meter” functionality while only minimally increasing the cost of the transformer, thus keeping the technology cost- effective for utilities. Veridian’s prototype will go into operation in spring 2014.
A map for a mobile future
Over the past number of years, Veridian has continued to enhance its geographic information system (GIS). The pace and scope of change peaked in 2013 in advance of the company’s major deployment plans for 2014.
Half a dozen rugged field computers were tested in 2013 and feedback from staff was encouraging. The wireless tablets give outside crews real-time access to Veridian’s mapping system – right in the field. Any updates they make are first verified back at the office then input into the GIS. This creates a highly effective communication loop and enables field staff to more efficiently and successfully resolve issues by using the most up-to-date information available.
In 2013, Veridian purchased the platform and software to integrate its GIS with its new SCADA system and customer service tools. To reduce cost, decrease development time and create a truly customized solution, Veridian is handling the programming for this project in-house. Integrating the systems will allow for the development of a real-time outage map that will automatically update Veridian’s phone system and website, as well as send “tweets” to provide customers with immediate and convenient access to system status information during outages.