For the rise in distribution intelligence to be fully utilized, devices and assets need the ability to communicate. Intelligent devices are significantly limited in their capabilities if they must wait on a central system or must rely solely on preprogrammed logic to execute a specific task. It is much more effective for a group of devices to communicate directly with one another to coordinate on a task, using data on current conditions. And these same devices need to talk to a central system so that an operator is kept abreast of what is occurring in the field.
Improving fault response times is major business case for distribution automation. In a fault detection isolation and restoration FDIR application, communicating devices dramatically improve reaction and recovery (see figure above). In completely manual operation, it can take over 2.5 hours to restore power once an operator is alerted. By allocating the devices to coordinate with one another in this event, the response time can be shortened to 15 seconds or less. This gets the lights back on quicker and allows the fault fix to start sooner.
These types of operations provide examples of how utility IoT (machine-to-machine automation) is making possible the radical changes occurring to the distribution model. The ability to balance unpredictable loads and manage sags and swells caused by intermittent distributed energy resources is one aspect of this, as are adaptive capabilities in outage response and demand response devices.
Intelligent devices make true automation possible. In a layered intelligence approach, such as with Gridstream® Connect, these devices have proven dynamic enough to be trusted with real-time decision making in a way that is already improving power quality and reliability.