In its quest to reduce power outages and improve reliability, Kentucky Power is working to reconfigure its electrical distribution grid, particularly on its longest circuits.
Decades ago, when electrical infrastructure was first put in place, the industry practice at the time was to build lines extending radially from the substations and pole to pole to the customers. This was especially the case in sparsely populated communities or rural areas such as in eastern Kentucky. Fast forward in time, utility companies across the country are making significant circuit upgrades by using technology and other infrastructure enhancements to improve reliability for its customers.
A major reliability project is now wrapping up in the Johns Creek area of Pike County. The Johns Creek circuits have been some of the worst performing circuits in terms of numbers of customer interruptions and duration of outages, but the reconfiguration will now have twice as many circuits with fewer customers per circuit.
After purchasing property near an existing large transmission line, constructing a substation, adding new structures to direct lines in and out of the substation, constructing two new circuits and upgrading equipment all along the way, the project took almost four years to complete.
“The technological advancements that have come along are really remarkable and are game changers for keeping the lights on,” said Mike Lasslo, manager - Projects. “The challenge, like with anything, is balancing the costs of the investments and the benefits, so these improvements have to be spread out over time and completed in stages. Reliable service is necessary for the overall economic viability of the whole region.”
With advancements in technology, Kentucky Power is also using distribution automation and circuit reconfiguration (DACR) to improve reliability. Before DACR, when an outage occurred, field personnel would drive the circuit to assess for damage and then manually perform switching to restore service to customers, sometimes taking hours to complete. The DACR system can respond in minutes to restore service to as many customers as possible and also isolate the damaged section of the circuit, identifying and speeding up the restoration process for repair crews. A video of how DACR works can be found here.
“We are finishing up DACR installation on the Johns Creek project, so the expectation is that customers will experience fewer and shorter power outages in the future,” said Lasslo. “When planning these projects, we examine our worst performing circuits, number of customers served, potential reliability benefits and costs to help us prioritize the work. There are several other reliability projects already in progress this year in various parts of our territory.”
With further technological improvements including enhanced cellular LTE service, a long range plan to significantly expand DACR was implemented approximately five years ago. To date, DACR has been installed on approximately 20 percent of the circuits served by Kentucky Power.