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Customer Story

Peak Reliability keeps the lights on with real-time data

man with hard hat looking up at transmission tower

In August 2016, the Blue Cut Fire erupted in Southern California’s San Bernardino County, short-circuiting a 500-kilovolt transmission line. Meanwhile, in Peak Reliability’s control room, operators were working to get information on the area and direction of the fire to keep the lights on in Southern California. The stakes were high—175,000 homes and businesses in the Los Angeles area were at risk of an outage. The analytics available to the operators lacked the necessary geographic context, however, and they were forced to redispatch power generation to bypass the damaged facilities. This costly and less-than-optimal solution required the local power company to pay tariffs for using electricity from outside the balancing authority. After purchasing the Enterprise Agreement (EA), however, Peak Reliability was able to process and share data in real time.

The balancing act in high-voltage electrical transmission

The Western Interconnection is a transmission network that links 24 transmission operators (TOPs). It provides power to more than 80 million people over 1.8 million square miles stretching from northern Canada to Baja Mexico. The TOPs model their network and points of interconnection with adjacent power companies. Peak Reliability receives these network models in order to model the entire Western Interconnection network and provide critical data and information to TOPs.

Severe weather and natural disasters, such as the Blue Cut Fire, are major challenges for Western Interconnection grid operators. Wildfires and landslides are seasonal occurrences, and daily temperatures can fluctuate up to 50°F. Because electricity is not stored, disturbances and imbalances can cause blackouts. Therefore, it is critical that Peak Reliability and transmission operators continually monitor and maintain the balance between generation and demand to prevent outages. Peak Reliability was using a system consisting of many components bound together when the Blue Cut Fire struck. This system was costly to develop and difficult to maintain, and, as evidenced by the fire, did not fully meet operational and customer needs.

Systems that need to communicate with each other about the same equipment speak different languages.... We use the PI System Asset Framework to consolidate and normalize all of this information. It is our Rosetta Stone.
Dayna Aronson
Enterprise solution architect at Peak Reliability

A smarter way to manage the grid

Peak Reliability purchased the EA in 2013 to allow it to harmonize and consolidate device data. The goal was to help TOPs more easily spot and resolve problems. The company uses the PI System to collect, structure, store, and visualize sensor data in real time. The Asset Framework enables communication between systems.

"Systems that need to communicate with each other about the same equipment speak different languages,” said Dayna Aronson, enterprise solutions architect at Peak Reliability. “They have different models, units, nomenclature, process, and terminology. We use the PI System Asset Framework to consolidate and normalize all of this information. It is our Rosetta Stone."

Peak Reliability also developed a system called the Peak Visualization Platform (PVP) that monitors and visualizes sensor and equipment data geographically to help TOPs respond to disturbances. The system’s Esri and PI System components required little to no coding.

"We implemented the PI Integrator for Esri ArcGIS to connect the PI System with Esri’s ArcGIS platform,” said Aronson. “The technology allows the visualization of SCADA and other sensor data within a geospatial context. We use Esri’s Operations Dashboard to visually monitor the grid. The dashboard provides critical situational awareness for our operators when they have to make rapid decisions."

Today, Peak Reliability collects 440,000 data streams, many updated every 10 seconds. In addition, the company has deployed a synchrophasor network on the Western Interconnection. The network updates collected data 30 times per second. All the data generated from the networks and the 8,000 substations that Peak Reliability monitors comes into the company’s control room. Here, operators continually review more than 13,000 displays for anomalies that could lead to disruptions in the grid.

peak reliability dashboard using PIOperations dashboard provides critical details in real-time for rapid decision making.

Keeping the future bright

The PI System provides Peak Reliability with a less costly, easier-to-maintain system that helps TOPs operators keep the lights on for million of customers. The company plans to implement additional use cases.

"One thing that is very interesting to us is including a geospatial context for the real-time contingency-analysis (RTCA) displays,” said Aronson. “These displays provide a five-minute-ahead, what-if scenario analysis of possible grid conditions. 

“The RTCA application simulates more than 8,000 contingencies, which it prioritizes based on their potential negative impact on the operation of the grid,” he added. “We are going to georeference the RTCA results and superimpose them over the topology of the network to give the control-room operators the locational intelligence needed to make quick and well-considered decisions in the event of a facility failure, negative contingency, or other event that threatens the reliability of the grid.” 

For more information about Peak Reliability and the PI System, watch the full presentation here.

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