Shorter power outages

– Automatic fault isolation and efficient customer communication

When a local storm wreaks havoc and power supply is interrupted, power can be restored to a large part of the affected area's households and summer houses in a few minutes by using Tekla’s automation systems.

The storms on 26 and 27 December 2011 were the worst and most widespread storms seen in Finland for over a decade. But even in years when there are no large-scale storms, power grids can be put under pressure by multiple local storms, thunder, lightning and downburst winds.

The Tekla DMS (Distribution Management System) offers electricity utilities tools for quickly isolating faults in a power grid and efficiently restoring power in an outage situation.

Automatic fault isolation

Elenia Oy (previously known as Vattenfall Verkko Oy) serves about 400,000 customers on its electrical grid. The company has long been investing in automating features of its electricity grid. Elenia took a significant step in the automation process in December 2011 when it adopted automatic fault isolation, or FLIR (Fault detection, Location, Isolation and supply Restoration), to deal with electricity grid faults.

When a fault occurs in the electricity grid, FLIR detects and locates the fault and isolates it from the rest of the grid, restoring power to the areas of the grid that remain operational. All this is done automatically. The system is particularly suitable for electricity grids in rural areas.

Elenia Manager of Operations Turo Ihonen has participated in defining and adopting the new system: "For us, FLIR is a tool that allows us to make better use of the investments we have made in our power grid."

The application benefits Elenia's customers, the electricity consumers. "When dealing with an ordinary storm, FLIR enables us to restore the electricity grid more quickly in the event of problems. The fault area is isolated automatically and power can be quickly restored to residents outside the fault area using healthy parts of the grid. This will reduce the duration of power outages."

Software Manager Jukka Kuru from Tekla says that, at best, the system can restore power to most of the consumers affected by an outage within a few minutes.

The automatic Fault detection, Location, Isolation and supply Restoration system, FLIR, produces a fault isolation sequence for each detected fault. This includes the connection measures that can be performed remotely in that particular fault profile. In place of full automation, control center personnel can also use the system to decide what to do next. Safety is important, which is why personnel always have the option of stopping the automation process.

More time for managing the work

In the event of large-scale storms, damage can be so widespread that a healthy electricity grid can no longer be found. However, the efficient fault isolation automation is still useful. "It frees control center personnel from grid management to managing the repair procedures underway in the field. Both personnel resource management and the overall management of the situation are improved," Ihonen explains.

Kuru returns to the events of last winter and says that Tekla DMS functioned reliably during the storms, even though information was flooding into the system. "We already had experience with large-scale faults and had developed the system to a high standard. After this 'test' we can definitely say that the system's operational readiness is good, even in such extraordinary circumstances."

Efficient communication

Energiateollisuus Oy contracted a consumer study on power outages in early 2012. According to the study, consumers are most affected by the lack of information regarding durations of power outages.

Elenia offers its clients a fault service that uses the Tekla DMS Communications application. Using the fault service, customers can receive information about power outages via SMS messages and email as soon as a fault is detected. When an initial estimate of the duration of the power outage is generated, the customers are notified. The service is automated and Tekla DMS Communications also ensures that information from different sources is always up to date.

In addition to SMS messages and emails Elenia customers can receive information by phone from an interactive voice response based on the outage situation and the online outage map.

"For example, during the storms last winter our online outage map was used by over 300,000 visitors," Ihonen says. "These communication services have made a difference for consumers. The number of incoming calls in our customer service is decreasing, because customers can receive information about power outages directly on their mobile phones."

Customer-oriented collaboration

Jukka Kuru from Tekla says that the entire project started with Elenia's needs, and that preliminary design work done in collaboration with Elenia has played a significant role in achieving a successful end result.

"The in-depth defining stage helped design the operational logic of the system: the features of the system simulate the actions and the sequence of the actions that control center personnel would perform independently to locate and isolate faults. This has made it easy to adopt the system. Accordingly, FLIR has been fully adopted in Elenia," Kuru says.

In addition to Tekla, the automated fault isolation system for electricity grid was developed by grid automation solution provider Netcontrol Oy. The Netcontrol SCADA control system performs the fault isolation sequence by remote control. "The seamless interoperability between the systems in this project is based on assigning clear roles; Tekla DMS provides the brains for FLIR and SCADA functions as its reliable engine," Kuru summarizes.

"From the customer's perspective, it is great that two system developers have undertaken such close collaboration to reach the best possible end result for the customer," Ihonen says.