Keeping the lights on is a year-round responsibility for power providers, one that sometimes means braving extreme weather to make sure the distribution system can handle the strain of a peak. Whether it is January in central Minnesota or July in Arizona, you will find Western customers inspecting their lines with infrared (IR) cameras borrowed from our Equipment Loan Program to protect their customers from potential power outages.
Electrical District No. 2 (ED2) in Phoenix, Arizona, is as “summer-peaking” a utility as they come, and each year since 2001, the maintenance department has borrowed an IR camera. “The loans probably go back further to the ‘pre-database’ times,” observed Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann. “Some of our customers are as consistent as the seasons when it comes to scheduling loans, and ED2 is one of those utilities.”
“Yearly inspections keep the malfunctions from piling up,” acknowledged Lineman Steve Heet, who recently took over inspections from Lineman Dewayne Hill.
Heet borrowed the Mikron 7550 thermal camera to inspect all of ED2’s overhead lines. “We pay special attention to the capacitor banks, regulator banks and switches, but basically, we are looking at everything,” he explained. “Underground transformers and bushings are on our schedule this year, too,” Heet added.
Crews take out the camera at night and inspect the line from a service truck, recording hot spots to be repaired during the day. And how hot do hot spots get in the desert in the summer? “I think 340 degrees is our record,” said Heet. “Typical hot spots are around 180 degrees and above.”
A recent inspection uncovered a couple very hot substation blades that could have resulted in 1,000 customers losing power. “A short, scheduled outage for repairs—even in the summer—is much easier for customers to manage than an unexpected event,” Heet stated.
Avoiding surprises is, after all, the whole point of a proactive maintenance program. Don’t wait for the next hot summer day to find out if your system is cooking up an unpleasant surprise. Contact the Equipment Loan Program at 720-9627420 to borrow an infrared camera. A few minutes of quick inspection can save hours of headaches for you and your customers.