I wrote last month about Olive Meadows, a Veedersburg resident who served as a Tipmont REMC troubleshooter for 18 years. Troubleshooters were volunteer, unpaid positions that would field outage calls 24/7 and relay information to the Tipmont line workers.
The line workers would then travel to and patrol the affected area until they found the problem. In other words, that’s a lot of time spent driving up and down country roads on a cold winter’s night when your power is out. So, the challenge for Tipmont was how to increase visibility into our electric system to reduce the time it takes to restore your power.
We’ve added a number of interconnected systems that have done just that. The first system is called SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition). SCADA is a system that monitors and transmits real-time information on our system. Think of it like the dashboard in your car, where you can gauge your speed, fuel level and engine diagnostics.
The next system is OMS, or outage management system. When an outage occurs, OMS uses information it receives from SCADA and phone calls from members to predict the source and most likely location of an outage. Our operations analysts can use smart meters to confirm the predicted source. This saves critical time that would have otherwise been spent driving down county roads trying to locate the source of the outage. You may have visited the outage map on Tipmont’s website. This map is a visual representation of the OMS’ prediction algorithm.
The OMS predictions are good but not perfect. It's the reason why we want you to call us when an outage occurs. The more data we can collect, the more accurate OMS' prediction will be.
So, SCADA and OMS improved our system visibility and how quickly we’re aware of a possible outage. But we weren’t satisfied with that. That’s where our fiber communications come in. Over the last few years, we’ve been deploying fiber optic communication across our system to connect our substations. One of the new technologies fiber has enabled is called distribution automation.
Distribution automation is a fancy term for automatically restoring outages. If a problem occurs close to the substation, everyone else down the line is affected and out of power. Distribution automation devices isolate the problem area and efficiently reroutes power to your until a line worker is able to make repairs.
Therefore, if you’re not close to the problem area, you would be out for about a few minutes while the distribution automation device reroutes power, rather than a few hours waiting for repairs. Tipmont has six of these devices active in the field today, with three more planned for 2018.
These devices are revolutionizing a process that has essentially been the same ever since Olive's days as a troubleshooter. They will especially benefit dense and distant areas where an outage either affects many people, or takes a long time to reach.
SCADA, OMS and distribution automation are really just the tip of the iceberg when discussing innovation at Tipmont. I’ll share more throughout 2018 about the innovations that are providing value for your membership. Until then, blessings on your family this holiday season and I look forward to continue serving you in 2018.