Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

In the Scottish highlands, winter can be fairly grim. Thus, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) needed to better understand ice formation on power lines to ensure a more reliable power supply.

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Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

OTT HydroMet has developed a tailored solution that monitors the power pylons’ microclimate and automatically sends alerts when the lines are close to freezing. The system now moves into its second winter season.

Overhead transmission lines are the most economical and common way to transport electric energy from one place to another. However, due to persistent exposure to wind, rain and other harsh weather, the metal conductors are prone to elongation, which can cause the lines to sag.

Low hanging lines can be a serious safety risk, especially if they cross over roads. When the lines hang too low, power suppliers need to make sure the power capacity is either significantly reduced or potentially shut down power transmission. The key variable is not to waste power capacity while keeping transmission safe.

The Grim Scottish Winter Can Drag Conductor Lines Down

While it is common to see sagging lines on a hot summer day as the sun heats the conductor lines causing the line material (in most cases aluminum or copper) to expand, extreme cold can also cause the lines to sag.

Ice formation increases the weight of the power lines, which drags them down. Snow, ice and frost are pretty constant in the Scottish Highlands from November to March, contrary to the valleys and the coastal areas of the rest of Great Britain. Thus, SSEN is keen to fully understand the current situation at the power pylons.

Throughout December 2020, meteorological stations with cameras were installed by OTT HydroMet on three power pylons that demonstrated susceptibility to ice formation in the past. The objective was to predict ice formation on the transmission lines and transmit automated warnings to the electricity network operator.

The power pylons are located in the Scottish Highlands, close to Slochd, roundabout 20 kilometers east of Loch Ness.

The power pylons are located in the Scottish Highlands, close to Slochd, roundabout 20 kilometers east of Loch Ness. Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Tailored Solution for Various Power Pylons

For OTT HydroMet UK, this was a rather interesting request that presented quite the challenge, too. Mounting a weather station on a power pylon 15 meters above the ground that is robust enough to withstand the elements is one thing, supplying the necessary energy to run it, is another.

It might sound strange but providing power to run a weather station and further equipment on a pylon is complicated because you cannot use the electricity from the transmission lines.

Robin Guy, Senior Service Technician, OTT HydroMet UK.

His team developed a solution that runs on a solar panel and is still able to provide all necessary measurements on short and dark winter days.

The system is comprised of the following:

  • Camera and conductor sample to display the conditions on the transmission lines
  • Customized mounting brackets for various pylon geometry
  • Lufft WS502 weather sensor to monitor temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, wind direction, wind speed, radiation
  • OTT netDL 1000 data logger and 4G communication unit with ultra-low power consumption
  • OTT Solar 1205 battery that gets charged by the 140W PV panel

Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Monitoring and Anticipating the Formation of Ice on Power Lines

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Intelligent Data Communication For Low Power Consumption

With the supply of energy being crucial to the operation, the team devised a smart, cost-effective data communication schedule.

“We set the communication intervals to six hours,” Robin Guy says. “While the WS502 weather sensor takes measurements every 15 minutes, average values are being sent together with a camera picture four times a day.”

The whole solution takes measurements of the following parameters:

  • Air temperature, relative humidity, relative air pressure
  • Average wind speed, maximum wind speed, wind direction
  • Dew point
  • General icing alarm, extreme icing alarm
  • Global radiation
  • Voltage

When there are changes in weather conditions, ice formation becomes more likely. The communications switch to alert modes with an interval frequency of one data transfer per hour or, in high alert mode, one every 15 minutes.

“This is close to real-time monitoring,” Robin Guy says, “and it allows SSEN to react on short-notice. Electricity can be transferred way longer now before the sag really sinks to dangerous heights”.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by OTT HydroMet.

For more information on this source, please visit OTT HydroMet - Meteorology.

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