Winter is Here: Is Your High Voltage Transmission System Ready?
As much as we hate to admit it, winter is here. As the temperatures get colder and the weather gets a bit harsher, every transmission asset owner should be aware of the risks that winter storms pose. Overhead lines often aren’t as robust as they need to be to withstand severe weather conditions. When these structures fail, the consequences can be significant. Extended power outages during a winter storm can incur a major financial loss for an energy company, as well as damage its brand reputation with consumers.
Winter Risks and Threats: What You Need to Know
When it comes to line performance in the winter, wind and ice often pose the biggest threat to the structural integrity and reliability of the system. Here are several reasons why wind and ice may prove problematic.
What to Look Out for in a High Voltage Transmission System
Exceeding Forces and Load on Asset
First, it’s important to remember that, no matter what type of high voltage transmission system you’re managing, these engineered products are only designed to withstand a certain amount of force and loads. Wind and ice events together present much larger forces applied to conductors and towers than the system would experience under normal operating conditions. Designers try their best to account for severe weather scenarios while also trying to optimize the cost of the asset. However, we still see storm related failures frequently in our industry. Many (not all) of these could be prevented with the right strategy.
Poorly Designed and Fabricated Assets
In many cases, structures are simply under designed in an effort to save money on development by lowering the cost of the asset. Other times, even if the asset is properly designed, due to the lack of quality assurance inspection, fabrication issues can prevent it from performing to its full load capacity. In either case, your system now has an inherent structural weakness that could be susceptible to premature failure under certain severe weather conditions.
No Consistent Inspection and Asset Management Practice
Failing to implement a consistent and thorough asset management practice can pose the biggest threat to high voltage systems during winter weather events. Even transmission systems that have been properly fabricated and installed eventually start to show signs of deterioration. The best way to combat damage due to age and exposure to the elements is to implement a consistent practice of regular inspection and maintenance to pinpoint any potential damage before it becomes a major concern.
Unfortunately, many energy facilities simply don’t have the time or internal resources needed to conduct a thorough routine inspection. Ignored and poorly maintained assets become increasingly vulnerable to external conditions, particularly severe winter weather. As a result, these systems can experience premature and even catastrophic failure that disrupts both power delivery and an energy company’s bottom line.
Establishing Health Baselines on Energy Infrastructure Assets Can Get Your System Winter Ready
The first step in preparing your assets for the winter ahead is to develop and implement a thorough practice of structural, routine, and preventative maintenance. A third-party asset management specialist will customize an inspection and maintenance solution. Your vendor will establish a health baseline of each individual asset, pinpoint structural weaknesses, and outline a move-forward strategy that keeps your high voltage systems ready to perform, both in winter as well as throughout the rest of the year.