SCADA Technician Doug Appelgate checks the control panel for the automated electronic system at one of ECI REC’s substations.
From headquarters, Operations Manager Gary Marlow can check to see if the circuit breakers have been tripped, saving a trip to the substation.
Already in 2013, ECI REC has made major strides towards updating its electric distribution system to improve efficiency, reliability, and level of service. As of February 15, 27 substation circuits have been upgraded to more advanced “vacuum” circuit breakers with electric controls. By April, as part of ECI REC’s 2013-2016 Construction Work Plan, 35 out of 73 total circuit breakers will have been upgraded.
The circuit breakers replace technology that is over 60 years old. They protect the substation from power surges caused by faults on the lines, like when a tree falls into the wires. They also protect line personnel who might be in the substation when a fault occurs.
The new vacuum breakers react faster and are more reliable than the old mechanical breakers. They do not contain oil that can pollute the ground if they explode. This technology has easily integrated into the new state-of-the-art electronic system, which allows ECI REC team members to monitor substation performance from headquarters.
“The automated electronic system that ECI REC has been building will enable quicker response time to outages,” said Steve Marlow, manager of operations and engineering. “Our linemen or control operators can easily see if the circuit breakers have been tripped without actually entering the substation, saving time and labor costs looking elsewhere for the source of the outage.”
The new system has been tested in heavy fog, blizzard, and downpour conditions and has operated at better than a 99% success rate. Both the new breakers and electronic system will provide efficiency and reliability benefits for years to come.