On-Time and on Budget - Planning Your Thermal & Visual Monitoring Systems Deployment

The traditional way of maintaining and repairing substation assets costs utilities time and money and does not make the most efficient use of scarce technical resources. Technicians must frequently visit remote locations, conduct physical inspections, record any issues, and return with the right equipment or parts to complete the repair.

Instead of rolling trucks to conduct inspections, utilities can deploy Thermal & Visual Sensors to monitor high-value substation assets from a centralized location. Over time, utilities can leverage these sensors to transition away from scheduled maintenance toward a Condition-Based Maintenance strategy.

If you’re considering the benefits of remote substation monitoring, then you may be wondering what is needed to procure and install the sensors. How long will it take to deploy the new system, and how much will the project cost?

This article is part of a series intended to help utilities succeed with Thermal & Visual Sensors.

What Should Utilities Know When Planning for Remote Substation Monitoring?

Before diving into the purchase and installation phases of the project, take a step back and work alongside the vendor to answer some key questions.

By developing a shared understanding of the goals of the project, the reasons for installing the sensors, and the expected impact the project will have on the Operations & Maintenance (O&M) team, you can ensure that you are getting the right solution.

To start, sit down with your team and lay out the project requirements. Determine the level of coverage you need, the type of assets you will be monitoring, and how the Thermal & Visual Sensors benefit the organization.

From there, you can set the scope of the project. Is this a small-scale pilot program designed to test the capabilities of the system or a larger rollout across multiple sites? How many substations will you install the sensors at, and how many assets will be monitored at each site?

With these high-level requirements in place, you can start to drill down into the more detailed specifications. Do you need both thermal and visual data for each asset, or can you deploy separate sensors in some cases? Can you integrate with your existing visualization software or do you need to install a new dashboard? Will you need to bring the data into your SCADA or asset management platforms? Will the units be exposed to high levels of electromagnetic interference or severe weather conditions that require them to be ruggedized?

At each site, determine where the sensors need to be installed to get the desired level of coverage. Do you need to lay new cabling or dig new trenches to connect to power? Are there existing structures that the units can be installed on, or do you need to install new poles? And how will you connect the sensors to your network to collect and analyze the data?

Finally, decide if you will use an in-house or approved contractor who can safely work within the substation to install the sensors, or if you need to put the project out to tender and choose a winning bid.

How Long Will the Installation Take?

As with any project, the exact schedule will depend on a number of variables, including the scope of the project, the experience you have with similar projects, and your ability to shut down substations to do the installation. Depending on the type of sensor, the substation may need to shut down in full or in part. If this is the case you will need to manage the timing of the planned outage so as not to affect customer service.

As a general guideline, expect a new deployment to take between 6 to 8 months from the initial kickoff meeting to the final handover. Multiple sites can be managed simultaneously to reduce the total length of the project.

When setting a schedule, key milestones include:

  • Initial decision and approval
  • Kickoff meeting with vendor
  • Specifications and project plan
  • Full or partial planned outage at the substation
  • Installation and deployment by contractor
  • System commissioning by vendor
  • Handoff and project completion
  • Ongoing testing and optimization

How Much Will the Installation Cost?

Similar to the schedule, the total cost will depend on the specific details of the project. That said, the budget generally falls into two main categories - equipment and installation.

As a starting point, allocate 60 percent of the cost to the purchase of the equipment and 40 percent of the cost to the installation.

To avoid surprises and reduce risk, you should also budget an additional 10 percent to cover any contingencies or unexpected costs that come up during the project.

Achieving a Successful Deployment at Remote Substations

To ensure a successful deployment, an experienced Project Manager will be assigned to oversee the installation of the monitoring system. They serve as the primary point of contact and interface between the utility, the vendor, the contractor, and any suppliers.

The Systems With Intelligence team will work closely with you to help determine project requirements, identify the right solutions, and guide the deployment. They will also test and configure the units and provide ongoing training opportunities so that you can get the most out of the new system.

The Systems With Intelligence Thermal & Visual Sensors have been designed and built for remote substation monitoring. The utility-grade solutions are easy to install and use in most situations, meaning utilities can quickly start seeing the benefits of a Condition-Based Maintenance strategy.

Compared to traditional scheduled maintenance, a Condition-Based Maintenance strategy reduces costs, improves reliability and worker safety, and allocates scarce technical resources more effectively.

This approach can reduce planned O&M costs by up to 50 percent, meaning utilities can achieve a positive return on investment in as little as two-to-three years.

To learn more about Touchless™ Monitoring Solutions contact Systems With Intelligence to discuss your project.