SSEN installs motion detection on Skye electricity network

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is installing innovative motion detection monitors on part of the electricity network on the Isle of Skye to enable the network operator to quickly detect and potentially prevent power cuts, particularly during adverse weather events.

The Remote Asset INertial Monitoring and Alerting Network (RAINMAN) innovation project, once complete, will allow monitoring via a web-based server making it possible to pin-point the location of any unusual disturbances on the electricity network. This could mean quicker fault restoration following weather events, and even the detection of problems before they occur.

Should the trial project be successful, SSEN hopes the innovative technology could be adopted across other parts of its network in the north of Scotland and central southern England. The project looks to inform future development across the wider industry.

SSEN’s teams are placing the monitoring equipment, developed by EkkoSense, at each electricity pole location, which will monitor movement and send immediate status reports when uncharacteristic motion is detected on the overhead line. This enables SSEN’s engineers to narrow down the location of faults and quickly restore power to customers in the area.

Stewart Reid, Head of DSO and Innovation at SSEN said: “Innovation projects like the RAINMAN project allow us to deliver a safe and secure electricity supply to our customers by providing innovative solutions to quickly detect the location of faults and unusual disturbances. This will be vital in our preparations for winter.

“As each pole along the 132kV trident line is monitored on an hourly basis, it will be possible to see where unusual activity is recorded and start our investigations from a more accurate initial location. Being able to focus visual inspections on specific areas will help the teams restore power much more efficiently.

“The motion sensors are sensitive enough to even detect livestock rubbing against the electricity pole, which can be a common occurrence on our network in rural areas of Scotland, and of no detriment to the electrical network. However gale force winds or landslips may significantly damage the poles, so the quick detection of a large uncharacteristic movement means we can investigate and take the necessary early corrective action to limit power outages and any potential damage to our network.”

The key to this innovative technology lies in embracing the communication medium commonly used in car key fobs to remotely lock and unlock car doors. The key fob communication medium uses a very small amount of electrical energy to transmit the condition of each pole, with the data capable of travelling up to a distance of 20km. The low levels of energy needed to send the information means the power requirements can be met by a battery small enough to fit in your pocket alongside a 2 watt, A5-size recharging solar panel. The system has been designed to send information from each pole position every hour for the next ten years.

Stu Redshaw, EkkoSense CTO said: “It’s been a great pleasure working with SSEN on such an innovative and challenging IoT project”.

This long range, low power (LoRa) communication medium uses a network of collection masts to transfer data. There are seven LoRa collection masts located on the Isle of Skye and one at Applecross on the mainland, with each collection station covering a 200km2 area.

The full installation of RAINMAN on the Isle of Skye is expected to be complete by September 2017, in time for this year’s winter weather.

For more information on SSEN’s innovation projects, visit ssen.co.uk/innovation.