Photo by Sue Watson
Outage Detection System Map
Photo by Sue Watson
Holly Springs Utility Department general manager Bill Stone points to a digital map showing the locations of all electric meters on the system’s map.
Stone updates on outages, GE system
Bill Stone, general manager of the Holly Springs Utility Department, provided an update on issues at the North Substation in Holly Springs, the rollout of GE’s outage detection system and other amenities coming soon.
HSUD was blessed through the last winter blast that began Friday, Jan. 12, with the exception of a grounding switch failure at the North Holly Springs Substation.
The incident occurred around 11:15 a.m., with a fire at the substation that produced outages for a number of customers, including local industries Parker Hannifin, CFI, and KP Vinyl.
Power was returning around 1 p.m. and all was back on by 1:30 p.m.
The weather was brutally cold, but employees worked in subfreezing temperatures to restore electricity. Some industries may have closed due to the power outage, he said. All industries were back on at the beginning of the week, Stone said.
The 20-year-old substation was built by HSUD crews who are very familiar it, he said.
The actual cause of the fire was not known, but engineers theorize some ice may have built up on the equipment, creating a fault. (The circuit switcher was removed after the September incident.) A missing circuit switcher and the ground-out failure may have contributed to the extent of the fire.
A new circuit switcher has been ordered and will arrive and be installed by late April. Some bus bars may also be replaced or repaired. The switcher will run about $41,000 but the steel support structure near where the fire was located will be replaced at nominal costs.
The installation of the new switcher will be coordinated with work to be done by TVA to install its new switching equipment on its 161 kV transmission line that feeds the substation. Power supply over the system will not be affected by the repair work.
Thursday, Jan. 25, was a critical day for TVA as far as peak demand is concerned, Stone said. Demand across the Valley peaked at nearly 1,000 megawatts, about the capacity of the Magnolia Demand across the Valley, above projections. TVA’s capacity is between 32,000 and 33,000 megawatts, Stone said.
“TVA would have started closing down big industries first, but it didn’t happen,” Stone said. “TVA’s power alert was lifted by mid-afternoon Thursday, Jan. 18.”
TVA reported delivery of an all-time record of 706,000,000 kilowatt-hours on January 17, enough power to run Las Vegas for 88 days.
GE Outage Detection System
The Outage Detection System promised by GE came up in late December.
“It’s a brand new tool for us,” Stone said.
The system reports the number of energized meters, the number of de-energized meters and those of unknown status.
“We will be able at a glance to see how many customers are out and where they are when we get all the locations right on the map,” Stone said.
He explained that when a meter goes out it has a last gasp “screaming I’m out of power.”
During large outages, 60 percent of the outages will be shown on the map immediately, Stone said. The screen image shows both scattered outages and clusters of outages. Clusters of meters, or individual meters are shown as circles of different sizes and colors on the map.
It will be awhile before an individual will be able to go and look at his usage, but for now the outage detection system at HSUD is an invaluable tool.
“This has been in the works for a long time,” Stone said. “This, combined with CRC (outage reporting system) gives us a lot more information on locations of outages. Mapping was part of the plan (GE’s) from day one.”
CRC has a system where customers can report their outage by text message. That feature will be coming soon to HSUD’s customers.
A customer will eventually be able to look at his electric, water and gas usage in almost real time. Usage is put up on a bar graph every 15 minutes. This customer information is available to HSUD now, but will eventually be available to customers.
“You can actually go in and pinpoint when somebody takes a bath on this thing,” Stone said. “The consumer portal to the meter data management system will be available soon.”
Stone said HSUD is about four years into its contract with GE. The automatic meter readings system is now running smoothly over most of the system. HSUD can connect and disconnect power at the station.
“What we are doing now is neat stuff,” Stone said.
He likened the system to buying a car.
“What we are doing now is not stuff you need to drive a car,” he said, “but it sure makes it nice. The outage detection system is like having an air-conditioned car.”
The GE system met some unforeseen obstacles in its rollout in HSUD’s distribution boundary because it acts like a rural system with meters scattered over large rural areas.
“I don’t think the GE folks understood the challenge of meters being spaced out,” Stone said.
He said staff members at HSUD are very committed, and only a few were not able to make it in to the station during the ice and snow events of the year.
“The electric, water and gas guys were out there in the cold on standby ready to do the work, even in the ice-cold weather Friday when that switcher went down,” Stone said. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do, even when other people were staying home.”
To report an outage, call 1-888-556-5661 anytime of the day.