The Calm After the Storm – How Utilities Can Inspect Assets With the TCAM2500 Sensor

The Scenario – Damage to Utility Substations Following a Storm

After a major storm, electrical utilities must rapidly diagnose and repair damage to critical infrastructure to restore power and mitigate the effects of large-scale outages.

With trees down, roads flooded, and traffic at a standstill, it is often difficult for maintenance and repair crews to travel to remote substations to conduct physical inspections. Because they lack visibility ahead of time, they may drive to the remote site and discover little or no damage, that they lack a part required to conduct a repair, or that they cannot access it due to safety concerns.

As the outage continues, the utility comes under increased pressure to restore power as quickly as possible. In response, the Operations and Maintenance team needs to be able to assess the condition of multiple substations from a single, centralized location. With the ability to diagnose incidents from a distance, maintenance crews can be dispatched to the most severe issues and conduct repairs more efficiently.

The Challenge – Conducting Inspections Following Severe Weather

Weather is always a concern for utilities, but the damage caused by storms, flooding, wildfires, and heatwaves is only expected to grow as such events become more frequent and severe.

In the US, half of all transmission outages are caused by weather at a significant cost to the utility, customers, and the economy. Further, the connected nature of the power grid means that the impacts of storms and flooding can cascade to parts of the grid that were not directly affected, making it difficult for crews to pinpoint the cause of an outage without a full view of the network.

With limited resources, electrical utilities cannot afford to dispatch crews to every substation immediately following a storm. However, this increases the likelihood that a potential issue goes undetected and unresolved, resulting in a catastrophic failure in a high-value asset such as a transformer.

The Solution – The TCAM2500 from Systems With Intelligence

The TCAM2500 Thermal & Visual Monitoring System from Systems With Intelligence is a utility-grade thermal and visual monitoring system designed to withstand challenging outdoor environments.

Once installed at a remote substation and connected to a secure internal network, the TCAM2500 provides the Operations and Maintenance team with a continuous, real-time view of high-value substation assets, including transformers, bushings, cabling, arrestors, and other equipment.

Thermal sensors allow teams to detect heat signatures or changes in temperatures that could indicate a fault, while the visual camera allows teams to assess the damage, diagnose the severity of an issue, and determine the condition of the overall site before sending crews out to conduct repairs.

Rather than have crews out on the roads for hours following a severe weather event, the TCAM2500 allows utilities to prioritize the substations most in need of repairs. It also provides an advanced view of the site so that crews can safely enter in case of safety concerns.

TCAM2500 Features

  • Dual thermal and visual sensors for real-time remote monitoring
  • 36x zoom to remotely inspect assets, read gauges, and assess damage
  • Programmable pan and tilt to monitor multiple assets with a single sensor
  • IP66 rated and utility-grade immunity to electromagnetic interference, voltage surges, and interrupts
  • Utility standard protocols and integrations

TCAM2500 Benefits

  • Simplifies inspection and diagnosis of remote substation assets
  • Reduces the need to dispatch crews following severe weather
  • Lowers maintenance and repair costs following an outage
  • Enables crews to prioritize response to damaged equipment or issues
  • Enhances worker safety in dangerous and challenging conditions
  • Records incident for future assessments and improvements

The Results – Faster Repairs and Ongoing Substation Monitoring

With a complete view of all remote substations in their network, the electrical utility can pinpoint the root cause of the outage and dispatch repair resources to the site. Thermal and visual data from all substations allow utilities to identify any other potential issues and prioritize the response based on severity, the time to total failure, and the availability of maintenance crews. With recorded video of each site, they can even look back at the storm and see the incident that damaged the equipment, allowing them to make further improvements in the future.

The TCAM2500 Thermal & Visual Monitoring System reduces maintenance and repair costs, mitigates the impact of outages, and increases the overall reliability of the grid following severe weather. As the risk of outages increases with more severe weather events, electrical utilities can increase their ability to respond to incidents and restore power efficiently, effectively, and safely.

John Nam is Vice President Engineering at Systems With Intelligence.