Today’s Realities
A consistent uptick in extreme weather events. Increasingly frequent and more intense wildfires. Near-full ICUs, and significantly different energy usage with stay-at-home work thanks to a global pandemic. On their own, each of these scenarios places public safety in the spotlight when it comes to reliably delivering electricity. Bring them all together, and you have the perfect “public safety storm.”
Given today’s realities, utilities are applying more emphasis than ever before to keeping public safety at the forefront of distribution grid hardening efforts. With every yearly round of budget discussions, choices are made as to which grid resilience and modernization projects should be prioritized. Unsurprisingly, the initiatives and solutions that reduce safety risk and improve reliability rise to the top.

Informed Decisions
Many of the tools utilities leverage to direct grid hardening and risk mitigation efforts make use of information such as AI-based simulation and data that is not real-time. While such tools provide useful information, inherent gaps in data can mean an incomplete picture of grid conditions and health.

Decisions around wildfire and storm season preparation as well as those related to PSPS events call for having actionable and complete data at hand. Intelligence gained from Sentient Energy® solutions helps utilities augment their existing asset and outage management processes so they can make the most informed decisions possible.

data set

Data and Analyses
Sentient Energy’s intelligent sensors, distributed apps and Ample™ Analytics suite work in synergy to give utilities much-needed “eyes and ears” in the field, particularly in hard-to-access, high-vegetation and remote areas. Sensors capture and process detailed data and communicate near real-time alerts and analyses to utility management systems or Ample Analytics modules.

With a widespread footprint across the entire distribution system and the ability to capture high-resolution data close to the source, the Intelligent Sensing Platform enables cost-effective and accurate fault detection, substation monitoring, power quality analysis and troubleshooting. Perhaps most important in the case of public safety decisions, is the enablement of pre-fault analysis.

Clear-cut benefits for utilities leveraging our sensing and analytics solution include the ability to better target preemptive maintenance and modernization efforts, and valuable insights to inform public safety event decisions and efforts.

Prepare and Respond
Here’s how the Sentient Energy Grid Analytics System™ helps electric utilities prepare for and respond to significant events that have the potential to endanger public safety and interrupt power supply:

• Supplemental data that goes beyond other safety and visibility measures provides a more comprehensive picture for decisions such as Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).
• Grid visibility via cost-efficient and easily deployed high-resolution sensors allows for targeted, conditions-based line inspections and conditions-based preemptive grid hardening.
• Real-time alerts of possible faults and ignition sources efficiently direct and speed response efforts.
• Constant data from intelligent sensors feeds into Emergency Operations Centers and can be used to trigger complementary safety equipment, and report if the safety and sectionalizing equipment is not working properly.
• Post-repair and post-event audits can be used for grid health confirmation and future planning.

Chart showing wildfire mitigation maturity model.

Wildfire Risk
One particularly relevant example of a critical utility industry priority is the California PUC (CPUC) mandated assessment of wildfire risk mitigation categories — as defined in the Wildfire Maturity Model, developed by Boston Consulting Group (BCG). A required annual exercise, California utilities must evaluate, score and show progress on each risk category as laid out in the model.

The Sentient Energy Intelligent Sensing Platform helps utilities quickly and cost-effectively reduce risk in five of those key assessment categories —

Category B. Situational Awareness and Forecasting
Category C. Grid Design and Hardening
Category D. Asset Management and Inspections
Category E. Vegetation Management and Inspections
Category F. Grid Operation and Protocols

Public Safety at the Forefront
Whether it’s for wildfire risk initiatives, grid visibility and resilience or enhanced emergency response efforts, the Sentient Energy Grid Analytics System is a powerful tool that helps utilities focus on what’s most important. We take a collaborative and responsive approach to customer partnerships. It’s that partner view of our utility customers that drives the innovation and public safety focus behind our platform, working to address the unique needs and demands being placed on the utility.

Grid visibility and resilience. Improved wildfire risk. Strengthened emergency response. Sentient Energy’s intelligent sensors and advanced analytics are key elements of public safety and grid modernization efforts for utilities of every size, everywhere.

For more information on how our solutions help utilities reduce public safety risk and improve reliability, download our brochure Wildfire Mitigation & Emergency Response – Moving the Reliability Needle with Intelligent Sensors and Grid Analytics.

(Originally published in CIO Applications.)