Analyzing System Data to Improve Performance & Reliability, Mitigate Risk
As an electric distribution cooperative, delivering high reliability power safely and efficiently to members is United Power’s first priority. You expect your power to be available when you need it and as long as you need it. United Power recognizes its members’ expectations and earlier this year released Our Cooperative Roadmap with strategic areas the cooperative is focusing on for both its future and the benefits of members. One of the key focuses in the Roadmap is system optimization. The cooperative is engaging in several proactive practices to increase system performance, while also bringing innovative technology solutions on board to assist in demand monitoring, outage resolution, and fire mitigation.
A few years ago, United Power’s operations team shifted its maintenance strategy to focus on areas of the system that were falling short of performance goals. Utilizing a sophisticated network of grid tracking technology, the cooperative is able to identify specific areas that need improvement and plan targeted maintenance projects. Since the new strategy launched, the cooperative’s outage times have been reduced by nearly half.
The cooperative’s outage restoration and response is also aided by the rapid adoption of innovative smart devices deployed throughout the distribution system. These automated field devices not only aid in the dissemination of tracking data that informs United Power’s maintenance strategy, but also allow the cooperative to restore power remotely in the event of an outage without having to dispatch crews. They fall into a varying spectrum from simple to complex, but work in conjunction to identify, isolate, and, when possible, resolve faults.
Design and construction teams are regularly reviewing emerging solutions to improve reliability and provide better tracking information. While the most prominent and immediately recognizable elements of the system are poles and power lines, United Power also manages nearly 18,000 streetlights across its service area. More than 3,000 now include LED smart node technology that communicates lighting issues directly to the cooperative. The technology is both energy efficient and cost effective because it provides information crews can use to ensure proper equipment and materials are collected before being dispatched. Smart nodes are now the default for new streetlight installations, and the cooperative works with each community to convert older technology to the new alternative.
A system that functions reliably must also function safely. United Power serves two mountain canyons at a time in Colorado when wildfire risk has spiked. The cooperative published its fire mitigation plan a few years ago and updates it annually to include new elements that are proven to reduce risk and improve safety. Previous updates have included the installation of new technology and updated construction standards; and this year included the addition of new protocols during Red Flag Warnings. These new procotols govern the system’s response when infererence to electric flow is detected and when fire danger is at its highest. While power can be restored once interference is cleared in most cases, United Power requires crews to investigate causes when Red Flag Warnings are issued. Although an outage is never convenient, preventing a wildfire is critical to member and community safety.
United Power is proud to manage a comprehensive maintenance plan that has produced one of the most reliable systems in the country. As cooperative members, you can rest assured co-op leadership is actively pursing the best resources for a reliable and safe system, and doing so in the most cost-effective manner to control member rates.