In March, PEC became one of the first electric cooperatives in Texas to install IntelliRupter (IR) technology on our lines. Now, members in our Cedar Park District can expect shorter and possibly fewer outages.
What is an IntelliRupter?
An IntelliRupter is a piece of equipment that functions like a high-tech breaker. You might be familiar with breakers because you have them in your home. These types of breakers are designed to break a circuit by switching open when a power surge could threaten equipment down the line.
Pro tip: If your power goes out at home, always check your breakers before reporting an outage to PEC.
PEC’s IRs are installed at strategic locations along the Cedar Park District’s power grid. When an IR detects a fault in the system, it will open and break the circuit — just like your breakers at home. However, that’s when the high-tech aspects of the IR come in.
Many things can cause a fault in the grid that could result in a flicker or outage. Some of them are temporary faults, like when a downed tree limb hits the line and falls safely to the ground. Others will require repair, like when a line goes down during a storm. When a fault occurs, IR shines.
“IR technology automates our grid, which allows for faster restoration times by pinpointing the fault location and rerouting power accordingly,” said Director of Regional Operations Jason Murray. “And this all happens in less than a minute.”
The process when an IR detects a fault goes like this, with some steps happening simultaneously:
- A fault occurs.
- The IR detects the fault and automatically switches open.
- The IR checks to see if the fault has cleared so it can reclose. If not, the process continues to step 4. If it can reclose, power is restored.
- The location of the fault is determined by the IR and transmitted to PEC’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system in the Control Center.
- IR reroutes power to unaffected lines so that power is restored to as many members as possible.
- The Control Center team dispatches a crew to the site of the fault.
- Lineworkers investigate the issue and make necessary repairs, the breaker closes, and the issue is resolved.
IR’s advanced reclose technology allows our lineworkers to be dispatched for repairs less often, making PEC a safer and more cost-effective utility provider. This technology is superior to conventional reclosing because it reduces stress on system components and minimizes “voltage sags” that could affect you as a member downstream of a potential fault. It also protects the equipment from the pole to the substation.
Furthermore, IR is able to communicate the location of the fault to our team of controllers in the Control Center with enhanced precision. This allows them to immediately dispatch a crew to repair the fault with less time investigating the exact location.
Making a better PEC
Ultimately, IR means our members can expect increased reliability with fewer outages, and faster restoration when outages do occur. Members outside of the Cedar Park District should feel good, too, because increased safety and reliability leads to cost savings for all members.
While IR technology is not new, recent reductions in cost have made it a responsible addition to our system. And, because IR can automatically resolve many issues, our lineworkers can continue to work toward providing safe, reliable, and low-cost power across our entire service territory. Similar intelligent switching devices may be installed in other PEC districts in the future as the system continues to show signs of its effectiveness.