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WPD trial aims to prevent power cuts using ‘listening’ devices

The trial is due to be completed in December 2022. Image: WPD.

The trial is due to be completed in December 2022. Image: WPD.

Western Power Distribution (WPD) is undertaking a new project designed to ‘listen’ for faults on the electricity network before they happen.

With a trial beginning in October in Torquay and Coventry, the project – titled Pre-Fix – could see faults on the electricity network repaired as soon as they are detected, and before they cause power cuts for consumers.

It works by using existing devices – initially HV protection relays, power quality monitors and HV retrofit sensors – in new ways.

"The key to this is the interoperability of devices which means they will work together to share data and give us a clearer picture of what is happening on the network," Paul Morris, innovation engineer at WPD, said.

Around 250 ‘listening’ devices are expected to be in use on the network by 2022, with some of these attached to overhead power lines, while others are located in substation buildings.

Alongside this, WPD is also building a data platform that will bring together the findings from these devices. The platform will then enable the devices from across the existing supply chain to contribute measurements to a central database, with plans to also open the platform to devices that will be used in the future.

The project – which is funded by the Network Innovation Allowance – is to be completed in December 2022.

It's hoped it will be of particular benefit to vulnerable customers, who can be pre-warned when repair work is likely to affect their electricity supply as opposed to dealing with unexpected outages.

WPD is also running the Vulnerability and Energy Networks, Identification and Consumption Evaluation (VENICE) project, which is to establish how net zero is likely to impact on fuel poverty as growing numbers of people switch to electrified transport and heat and look at how WPD can support vulnerable customers through this transition.

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