The Power of Collaboration: SP Energy Networks and Elimpus

Everyone’s experienced that silent moment when power disappears and everything simply stops. Usually, within an intake of breath, electricity is restored and all comes back to life, barely missing a beat.

Phil Moore, Technical Director of Elimpus, never took a resumption of power for granted. In 22 years as an academic he had a constant fascination in researching that momentary loss of power, especially when it had the potential to cause continued interruption to service.

“A tree falling on a line causes an obvious loss of power which can be sorted” he says “However, certain faults have the potential to cause much more disruption because they’re hard to identify. They’re essentially transient, in that the power goes back on in ten seconds but it happens again maybe 6 hours later, so staff can be out searching for hours and waiting for it to happen so they can identify and then fix the fault.”

This problem is the inspiration behind the Radiometric Arc Fault Locator (RAFL) developed by Elimpus, although the origins of the project go back over ten years ago when Phil was in academia. “We got access to electricity substations so we could test the principle of locating discharges” says Phil “Everything’s done through antennas so imagine four in a substation catching all the information, which is then triangulated and thus identifies the defect. We perfected the technique for working within a substation, but RAFL required the system to operate when the antennas are up to 5km apart – far more of a challenge.

In 2005 Phil was offered a Chair at Strathclyde University and started working with Network Operators. “We started knocking on SP Energy Networks’ door and were well received, with an academic bridge project set up between the university and SP Energy Networks.  Elimpus was established in 2007 to commercialise the successful research and I started working there full time in 2009. We couldn’t have done it without the support of SP Energy Networks and NIA funding, and everyone benefits from RAFL, which continues to develop.”

“This is a great example of the mutual benefits of investing in an SME,” says Geoff Murphy,  Lead Engineer within SP Energy Networks Commercial and Innovation Team “Working with Elimpus gave SPEN first-hand experience of RAFL technology and let us assess its application on the network and the benefit for our customers. Elimpus has benefitted by gaining access to DNO resources, understanding the requirements of the product and performance required, as well as being able to trial in a real world environment and take a new product to market.”