The concept of Dynamic Line Rating has been around for about 20 years, and since the beginning, it has seemed like a foolproof value proposition. DLR offers an increase in capacity on existing transmission lines by an average of 10-40% simply by moving from traditional static ratings, based on worst-case assumptions to dynamic ratings based on real-time observed or measured conditions. What’s not to love?
In practice, the implementation of DLR has been challenging for early adopters. Many utilities have run pilots and done limited deployments of DLR using first-generation systems, which had either poor or mixed results that have made them reluctant to move to broader deployment. What went wrong? We’ve talked to many transmission owners and operators who were disappointed by their early experiences with DLR and line monitoring. The primary challenges they consistently cited are complex installations, high operational costs, and painful IT/ data integration processes.
Complex Installations: First generation systems such as the CAT-1, Power Donut and video sagometer (pictured below) all required sensor equipment or accessories to be mounted on conductors, and often required an outage to be scheduled, utility crews and specialized equipment. These steps add significant time and cost to the project. Any required maintenance or updates to the line-mounted equipment again presents the challenge of energized line work, or a scheduled outage.
High OpEx Costs: Utility budgets are always tight, but operating expense budgets are often particularly constrained, as many utilities (especially U.S. based utilities) generally cannot pass operating costs along to customers. Any equipment that requires incremental installation or maintenance costs faces strong headwinds from experienced managers in the transmission space. A utility executive recently shared a story of a first-generation conductor-mounted DLR system which stopped functioning and became a stranded asset because there was no budget to repair or replace it.
Painful Data Integration: To realize the benefits of DLR, line monitoring data must be fed into the transmission utility, and typically also to the system operator. Early monitoring system architectures require installation of additional hardware in utility control centers, which required connectivity, firewall, rackspace, servers and the involvement of Information Technology teams to manage the connections and data. Early systems also lacked forecasted ratings, limiting their value for forecasting and dispatch decisions.
With the input of utility partners, LineVision has learned from the challenges of early line monitoring systems and designed its V3 system architecture with the express goal of minimizing cost and complexity for the utility. The LineVision system is non-contact, meaning no outages, utility crews or bucket trucks are required. It is a turnkey system, including installation, maintenance, repair and communications, thus ensuring uptime and minimizing OpEx costs for the utility. Newer DLR systems such as LineVision provide a broader range of actionable data including forecasted rating. And finally, we deliver the data via a secure web interface or encrypted data feed, minimizing onsite hosting and data integration cost and complexity.
The benefits of DLR are hard to dispute, and despite the challenges of first generation systems, many utilities realized the benefits. Now, with solutions like LineVision addressing the pain points of earlier systems, DLR is poised to for more widespread adoption.