Achieving Fully Automated Operations Control at a Large Texas Utility
Written by Phillip McCrory and Jeff Walz
Oncor's Smart Grid Applied Systems program focuses on the modernization, automation and integration of distribution operations control centers. It is designed to leverage the significant investment that Oncor has already made in AMI and feeder automation. The program, comprising mobile workforce management, outage management, distribution SCADA and distribution network analysis, is a cost-effective step toward a smart grid.
Oncor, headquartered in Dallas, operates as the largest regulated electric delivery company in Texas with the goal of delivering energy reliably and efficiently across a very diverse service territory. This territory ranges from the heavily populated urban environment of Dallas/Fort Worth to sparsely inhabited rural areas of western Texas.
Oncor has faced a number of operational challenges, notably the complications of managing multiple distribution operations centers with legacy systems. Many of these systems performed effectively on their own, but were not integrated to fully leverage the potential of Oncor's investments in smart grid infrastructure. These investments include an advanced metering program with over 3.2 million smart meters installed by the end of 2012, and a distribution automation program. In effect, Oncor's control center personnel were integrating systems manually, visually transitioning between multiple user interfaces and personally translating data between systems. This required highly trained, skilled personnel to perform complex operations.
Oncor's goal is to transform the significant volume of data and information generated by these systems into actionable information to be leveraged across the utility. To increase reliability and efficiency, Oncor created a plan to focus efforts on avoiding unplanned outages and reducing outage response times. This plan also addressed a need to optimize dispatcher/operator and field crew processes. This initiative presented an opportunity to consolidate control centers, creating unified, integrated operations solutions. Oncor also developed a vision of a consolidated user environment with a common set of tools and applications to enable seamless workflows for operations personnel.
This plan, the Smart Grid Applied Systems Program, was designed to improve Oncor's operational capabilities and would represent the industry's first fully integrated distribution operations environment with a common model for comprehensive distribution management. It enables Oncor to realize the key operational benefits of reliability, efficiency and safety while supporting the related business objectives of improved asset utilization. The system collects and processes data from Oncor's disparate systems, providing a modern, consolidated user environment to streamline the user's end-to-end workflow. The integrated solution automates and simplifies operational processes.
In order to implement a program of this magnitude, Oncor segmented the project into three manageable phases. In the first phase, Oncor implemented a mobile work management system, provided by Intergraph, to help improve dispatch and field crew efficiency. This system leverages advanced mobile device hardware to provide field personnel with maps and visuals not previously available. The devices provide access to work schedules, GPS and routing information, enabling crews to complete jobs safely and efficiently.
In the second phase, Oncor commissioned Intergraph's geospatial-based outage management system, extended the existing Siemens Transmission Energy Management System to provide SCADA for the distribution network, and established a complete, single common distribution model. Oncor determined that it was essential to dedicate the necessary time and effort to produce a complete and accurate data model in order to generate reliable results. Once the OMS was integrated with distribution SCADA, Oncor personnel had the tools to maintain and display the real-time electrical state of the distribution network, dispatch outage tickets to field crews, generate isolation and restoration switch plans, and manage the restoration process.
Integration of Siemens's Distribution Network Applications (DNA) is the third phase in Oncor's Smart Grid Applied Systems Program. An automation engine, DNA delivers real-time analytic capabilities using load and voltage calculations to verify network conditions, detect overloads, support restoration activities and optimize the distribution network. Automated fault location, isolation and service restoration will improve the workflow and increase the efficiency of operators and remote crews.
The Smart Grid Applied Systems program enables Oncor Electric Delivery to improve the customer experience with higher reliability and faster service restoration; it provides a platform for additional advanced functionality. Integration of an advanced metering system is already yielding new benefits for customer restoration and improving restore times. The next steps in the program could include advanced fault and short circuit analysis, automated feeder reconfiguration, intelligent alarm filtering and advanced visualization. As this program continues to evolve, additional initiatives will help fully realize the potential of Oncor's vast investment in infrastructure.
Jeff Walz is Product Manager of Advanced Distribution Management Systems for Siemens Smart Grid Division in North America. He has over 18 years of electric utility industry experience in control systems, distribution automation, demand response and AMI/AMR. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State University in Ames.
Phillip McCrory, a senior member of IEEE, is the T&D Services Director for Oncor Electric Delivery’s operations IT systems. During his 40 year career, he has been responsible for transmission planning and the installation of Oncor’s EMS and Smart Grid systems. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas and his master’s at the University of Texas at Arlington, both in electrical engineering.