How Do Advanced Distribution Management Systems Make the Grid Smarter?

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Opinion

  Posted by: electime      15th October 2021

by Emily Newton, technical writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized

As people increasingly depend on electricity to power their homes, devices, and cars, utility providers must maintain enough visibility to prevent outages and other grid-related complications. Many companies achieve that goal by implementing an advanced distribution management system (ADMS).

ADMS software includes a suite of applications that run from a centralised computer system and allow continuous monitoring of an electrical distribution network. Here’s how that approach can lead to smarter, future-ready grids.

Predict and Mitigate Problems

An ADMS utility platform can highlight potential issues before they occur. Relatedly, it can help reduce the negative impact of problems once they happen.

For example, if distributed energy resources (DER) supply more than 30 per cent of the power used, unwanted characteristics such as high voltage and reverse power flow can happen. However, an ADMS simulation tool could show DER impact in advance. Then, grid operators have the information they need to plan for it and make the necessary adjustments.

ADMS software can track trends, too. It might show that solar power generation goes down during a particular time of day or season. Alternatively, it may indicate a crucial piece of grid equipment is running hotter than usual or has suddenly developed a vibration. Both of those symptoms suggest it’s time to schedule a service call and prevent a serious problem from developing.

Prepare Grids for Future Demands

Reliable electricity generation impacts a nation’s security and helps individuals live more comfortable lives. It’s also necessary to explore options for transitioning to alternative energy while maximizing oil- and gas-related outcomes. ADMS software helps utility companies prepare for what’s on the horizon while keeping the electricity supply consistent during current times.

A 2019 survey profiled the ADMS utility impact when it revealed that most respondents (63 per cent) had associated projects underway. Additionally, 94 per cent of those polled said integrating systems and information was a key strategy for the grid’s future resilience.

Some ADMS utility products also supplement legacy products or equipment. In such cases, a company can work towards more future resilience without budgeting for complete replacements.

Enhance Reliability

Many people in today’s society are lucky enough to flip switches in their homes and instantly light up the room. When strong storms hit and disrupt the power supply, they tend to remember how much more convenient it is to have electric lights rather than candles and flashlights.

It’s becoming more common for utility operators to use artificial intelligence (AI) to cut down on possible disruptions to the power supply. For example, a smart grid can automatically reroute electricity to stop blackouts from worsening.

Also, GE Power offers an AI-powered ADMS software feature specifically designed to help companies plan to keep the grid functional during severe weather. It compiles information like high-resolution weather data, previous outage statistics, and crew response trends to restore power faster than before and eliminate them when possible.

Scientists often warn that climate change may make dangerous, damaging weather events happen more often. However, using future-focused options that rely on data analysis helps companies stay resilient despite impending challenges.

Achieve Better Resource Allocation

It’s not always easy for a utility company’s leaders to decide when and where to spend their financial resources or send teams to address certain issues. However, smart software can speed their decision-making. For example, an ADMS simulation may show that tree overgrowth poses an imminent threat to the power lines in a particular community. If so, managers may send crews to tackle that problem sooner than planned.

Faster fault resolution is another benefit associated with ADMS utility products. Statistics indicate that teams spend up to 50 per cent of the total resolution time finding the problem. However, products exist that automatically locate faults and give companies their associated characteristics.

Then, responsible parties can prioritise issues by type and severity, making it easier to determine precisely where to send crews, the number of people needed to rectify the situation, or estimate any disruptions caused by work carried out to restore service.

Getting the necessary details before workers arrive at a scene also significantly reduces instances where employees realise they are not adequately equipped to deal with an issue after investigating it. That benefit helps companies manage their spending and scheduling needs.

A Customised Approach Gets Optimal Results

The specific ways a utility company sets up an ADMS system varies depending on its immediate and long-term expectations, as well as current obstacles to overcome. Thus, planning the best ways to utilise such software before implementing it should bring the best return on investment.