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Power to the people

Western Power Distribution (WPD) is the electricity distribution network operator for the Midlands, South Wales and the South West of England. With a network consisting of 216,000 kms of overhead lines and underground cables, and 184,000 substations, it delivers electricity to over 7.6 million customers across a 55,300 sq kms service area.

As with all power utility distribution networks WPD is regulated by Ofgen to ensure performance targets are met. Should the network suffer any outages resulting in loss of power to the customer for any period greater than three minutes, then fines are incurred.

To help avoid such an outcome WPD demands a constant level of network health checking and diagnostics to ensure any issues with the network are immediately communicated and line switching is initiated to ensure public inconvenience is reduced to a minimum.

With such an extensive network, often located across difficult terrain in the South West, requiring constant monitoring WPD required a robust, cost effective communications solution which supported remote locations and could provide rapid and flexible options for deployment.

Solution:

To assess the health of the power distribution network WPD turned to wireless specialist Wood & Douglas to create a system of radio base stations which would anchor a wide area communications network. Enabling the operator’s twenty power substations to remain in constant contact Wood and Douglas’ created an interconnected network based upon its Sentinel radio solution which has been specifically designed for data transmission applications within Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.

The system, created for WPD, incorporates 45 EB450 digital base stations located on geographic high points, more than a 1,000 ER450 remote digital radio outstations plus the provision of EH450 supplicated base stations on ‘hot’ standby to ensure the network remains constantly operational. These base stations then form a linked microwave ‘ring’ to WPD command and control centres located in Exeter and Bristol. The Sentinel E-series of products support full duplex operation, transmitting and receiving rapidly to deliver fast turnaround time, from data receipt to transmission. This constant radio ‘chatter’ forms a crucial service, monitoring the power distribution network.

The value for WPD of deploying Sentinel radios was the provision, as standard, of onboard remote network diagnostics and a comprehensive network management system (NMS) which ensures the radio network always remains operational. With just minutes of downtime incurring potentially large fines, it becomes critical that the radio network is ‘always on’. The NMS does not require a break in the operational flow of data when maintaining or altering the system, enabling operators to remotely manage the network without impacting data collection and transmission. The radio network is therefore able to constantly feed data to the command and control centres, with high sensitivity to changes in power and voltage providing indications of impending power outage. These warning signs are instantly identified and can then be addressed remotely by the operator from the command centre, switching substations to preserve the flow of electricity.

  • Wide geographical network
  • Highly sensitive
  • Self diagnosis to ensure mission critical operations

It is our aim to never promise what we cannot deliver.