Data, Not Truck Rolls – Using the IM500 Thermal & Visual Sensor for Substation Monitoring

The Scenario – The Need for Substation Monitoring

The Operations group at a midsized electrical utility is responsible for monitoring and maintaining numerous remote substations across a wide geographic region. As the substation infrastructure ages and demand for reliable power generation grows, maintenance and repair crews are under increasing pressure to avoid outages and ensure the system is fully functional.

Typically, crews are dispatched to substations on a scheduled basis or in response to a known issue. Upon arriving, the crews conduct a physical inspection of the facility using a variety of measurement tools, including handheld thermal scanners, to detect and identify issues for repair.

Once identified, the crew can either make the repair on-site or order a replacement part and return later. Depending on the severity, this reactive approach to repairs could lead to outages and result in fines, penalties, and other expenses.

To reduce the cost of maintenance, effectively utilize limited resources, enhance safety, and mitigate the risk of catastrophic equipment failure, utilities require a low-cost solution that enables immediate, real-time substation monitoring.

The Challenge – Moving Away From Truck Rolls

Remote substations are often difficult to access or located far from where maintenance crews are based. Crews may have to drive long distances to the site to conduct inspections and maintenance. Truck rolls are not only expensive and time-consuming, but the lack of continuous coverage increases the risk of outages if a minor issue goes undetected until a severe failure occurs.

Unfortunately, many high-end, thermal monitoring solutions are beyond the budget of some utilities and require more of lead time for planning, system design, internal approvals, and installation. On the other hand, large numbers of specialized wired sensors add complexity to the system and can result in higher costs, integration issues, and ongoing installation and maintenance requirements.

The Solution – The IM500 Thermal and Visual Sensor

The IM500 Thermal and Visual Sensor from Systems With Intelligence is a simple, cost-effective, and easy-to-use sensor designed for small and midsized remote substations.

Compact, versatile, and easy-to-install, multiple IM500 sensors can be deployed out-of-the-box to monitor and collect asset health data and automatically alert crews to sudden or prolonged changes in equipment temperature.

The embedded cell modem connects directly to the IoT cloud to transmit thermal and visual data without requiring access to the utility’s internal network, further accelerating the time to deployment. Signals are transmitted securely and can be easily accessed through the dashboard on a phone, laptop, or connected device.

The flexible sensors can be deployed by crews above ground to monitor the health of substations or below ground to monitor underground vaults. The sensors can be powered directly through  a low-voltage junction box or by solar panel.

Crews can also connect external sensors, such as flood-warning and other safety, environmental, and quality monitoring systems via the built-in I/O connections to automatically alert operators to an issue and enable remote response.

The Features

• Dual Thermal and Visual Sensor

• Secure LTE-M or 3G Cellular Connection to IoT Cloud

• IP67 Rated for Extreme Environments

• I/O Connections for External Sensors

• Connection to SCADA & Asset Performance Management

• Easy-to-Use Cloud-Based Dashboard

The Benefits

• Fast and simple to install for immediate data reporting

• Advanced analytics for real-time operator alerts

• Early detection of issues such as overheating, flooding, tampering, etc.

• Reduced reliance on truck rolls and physical inspections

• Lower maintenance costs and improved asset performance

The Results – How the IM500 Enables Proactive Maintenance

The IM500 Thermal & Visual Sensor provides utilities with a real-time view of the health of their substation assets. Instead of scheduled maintenance and reactive repairs, the Operations group can monitor multiple facilities from a central location and shift to a Condition-Based Maintenance strategy based on real-time data.

With effective substation monitoring using the IM500 Thermal & Visual Sensor, utilities can reduce maintenance costs, mitigate the risk of outages, protect high-value assets, and efficiently deploy limited resources in response to observed issues before they grow into more severe failures.