The Future of Utilities Lies in Power Quality
The power grid is evolving to become more renewable.
This is better for our planet in the long-term but creates a number of risks and complications in the short-term. The problem with adding renewable sources to a grid, combined with dispersed customer owned grid-tie systems, is the possible generation of backfeed (unintentional reverse flow of power). When this occurs, power quality issues like voltage sag/swell, imbalance, harmonic distortion, and more can appear and present serious safety risks for utility engineers. Therefore, this adds a new dimension for both the utility and utility’s customers when power outages, swells, and sags occur. It also introduces new concerns during the restoration of power and for anyone working with otherwise powered down circuits at a facility with renewable power generation, even if operating off-grid.
In a recent North American study by Micatu Inc. and ZPryme, over 100 utilities gave their opinion on this matter, and here are the results:
Other notable statistics:
- 90% of utilities have integrated renewables or plan to in the next five years
- 77% said safety aspects are very important when collecting power quality data
- Voltage sags, harmonics, and accurate voltage & current data are the largest power quality concerns
- 17% have no plans to address real-time power quality data
Three of the top four concerns regarding renewables are about power quality! Power quality events lead to some of the other foreseeable issues, like environmental hazards and injuries. With the high power that utilities distribute, the potential danger is always present. Although most utilities in North America recognize the added danger and challenges introduced by renewable grid-tie systems, 17% still do not have a plan to address real-time power quality data. They will require portable power quality analyzers if they do not have permanently installed analyzers.
Through the inevitable integration of renewable energy sources to the power grid, the (foreseeable) future of utilities is focused on power quality. Ready or not, utilities will be faced with unrelenting power quality challenges.
An obvious and effective solution would be to use a reliable power quality analyzer that trigger captures on power quality events like swells, sags, and outages. Lots of industries use power quality analyzers, but utilities and their high power customers are unique because they need to measure medium voltage distribution. The best power quality analyzers for those working at distribution level voltages are ones with a high safety rating that can directly connect to >1kV. That should be their starting point, at least.
The Best Solution
There is only one power analyzer brand that can connect directly to medium voltage, up to 15kV (with a 35KV probe in the works) with no need for a potential transformer: PowerSight®. With the 5kV and 15kV voltage probes, one can use any PowerSight power quality analyzer and connect directly to a medium voltage transformer at any point along the distribution delivery. Plus, every PowerSight analyzer has a high safety rating (600V CAT IV, 1000V CAT III) and captures the standard high-speed power quality events.