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Digital wildfire prevention technology improves grid resilience

Hitachi Energy
Hitachi Energy

A technology multinational revealed a new digital solution for improving grid resilience against natural disasters.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest climate change report found extreme heat, drought and extended dry season are on the rise.

This finding motivated Hitachi Energy to innovate a new wireless spark prevention unit (SPU) indicator to help keep important utility assets available through enabling remote monitoring and improving maintenance and replacement planning.

As climate change steadily increases temperatures longer periods of hot, dry weather play a significant role in intensifying the risk, frequency and severity of wildfires. The rising risk of wildfires brings a number of potential consequences including severe damage to electricity infrastructure. Investigations into wildfires causes discovered the same electrical infrastructure was present among top potential sources of the initial spark. Thermally overloaded surge arresters installed on power lines in dry areas were especially an area of concern for utilities.

Hitachi Energy wireless SPU indicator
Hitachi Energy wireless SPU indicator

The SPU monitors current and surge arrester thermal load. It automatically disconnects from the network in the event of a thermal overload, therefore preventing any arcing, sparking or discharge of hot particles that could ignite fires. A visual indicator alerts the utility field crew to the need for replacement.

The digitally enabled wireless SPU indicator automates visual inspection rounds to detect asset replacement. It provides real-time status of an SPU, allows utilities to perform remote monitoring and enables a strategic approach for asset maintenance and replacement planning.

Hundreds of thousands of SPUs installed in some of the world’s most wildfire-prone areas like Australia and the United States have significantly helped prevent wildfires.

“Our innovation is driving grid resiliency by safeguarding the network’s key assets,” Hitachi Energy high voltage products managing director Markus Heimbach said in a public statement.

“By mitigating the risk of wildfires ignited by power lines, we are protecting communities, wildlife and the environment. We continue to pioneer technologies to advance the world’s energy system to be more sustainable, flexible and secure – for generations … to come.”

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