CORE Electric Cooperative Reduces Wildfire Risk Using Line Sensing
CORE Electric Cooperative serves more than 175,000 members across 11 counties east, west, and south of Denver, Colorado. Rapid population growth in their Front Range service territory has necessitated that CORE add new meters at a rate of 1,000 per year. In addition to keeping up with this fast-paced growth in electricity demand, CORE is integrating solar and EV charging on to their grid and working diligently to reduce risk associated with wildfires.
The coop’s wildfire mitigation program, CORE Protect, combines vegetation programs, operational practices, inspection programs, and system hardening. The program utilizes new technologies including cameras monitored by AI to detect smoke plumes, non-expulsion fuses that don’t cause sparks when activated, and line sensors used to improve detection and location of power system faults.
Although CORE has good system visibility at all substations and meters, visibility in between is limited. Alex Lionakis, an Electrical Engineer from CORE explains “This is a blind spot we wanted to improve. We’d like to have the same level of status, analog data, and control along feeders that we do in our substations.”
When wildfire risk is high the challenge becomes greater as CORE switches protection settings to reduce the risk of wildfire ignition by disabling reclosing and fuse burning along feeders and laterals. When using wildfire settings, faults are addressed by tripping the feeder relay which negates any visibility of fault location from downline reclosers. This means that crews must patrol the entire feeder for any fault, resulting in more crew hours and longer outage durations.
CORE added line sensors along several feeders to improve fault location in both normal operations and when using wildfire protection settings. From the line sensors’ GPS location CORE can significantly narrow fault location, and by analyzing fault magnitude and waveform data from the sensors, they can narrow patrol areas even further. With more precise search areas, crews find faults and restore power more quickly. Waveform data from line sensors also allows CORE to confirm that protection settings are working as designed.
Because Sentient Energy’s line sensors support both cellular and Itron mesh communication networks, CORE was able to deploy the sensors and expand monitoring throughout its territory even in outlying areas with poor cellular coverage.
Additionally, CORE utilized Sentient Energy’s Ample management software on AWS cloud to reduce the burden on internal IT resources and provide greater scalability over time.
CORE plans to integrate sensor fault and load data into their OMS system to improve the accuracy of network load flow models (e.g. state estimation) and balance loads across phases. Load flow model accuracy is increasingly important as DER propagation makes load flow estimations more complicated.
As CORE’s Alex Lionakis states, “We are modernizing many aspects of our grid in parallel. It’s exciting and challenging. Line sensors have helped us close an important visibility gap we had on feeders in high risk wildfire areas, and we think there are other valuable ways we can use the line sensor data in the future.”
CORE has kept the lights on across 5,000 square miles of territory in Colorado for over 85 years. Today it’s exciting to see CORE’s aggressive efforts to transform their operations by integrating renewables, adding battery storage, improving reliability, and reducing wildfire risk as they keep up with growth in their geography. Sentient Energy is proud to be part of their progressive efforts.