Smart Sensor Technology for Next Generation Power Grids

Smart Sensor Technology for Next Generation Power Grids

By Muhammad Shafiq

Rapid urbanization, more electrification, growing industrialization, and expanding digitalization have imposed an ever increased demand of electrical energy and reliability. Network planning, operation, regulation, and business models of today’s power grids are undergoing technological advances that revive the operation of the actual grid and enable profound transformations in the electricity system*.

Governments and energy producers are striving for various alternative energy resources (biomass, biogas, wind power, solar power, geothermal power, etc.) other than the conventional energy sources (water, coal, fuel, nuclear, etc.) to meet additional power needs. Similarly, utilities and network owners are craving for i) an upgrade of the network structure in order to adopt the incoming renewable energy resources to meet increased energy demands and ii) improved instrumentation, measurement, and maintenance technology to enhance the reliability and continuity of the supply. The next generation grid (usually called smart grid) is becoming bigger, more resourceful and interactive but at the same time more complex and sensitive to faults. Therefore, it has to be brainier to cope with the broad ranging transformation of the network model.

Sensor technology plays a key role in collecting data from various network sites for remote monitoring, protection, and control of the critical components of the widely expanding power grid. As blood pressure or cardiac activity is used during the assessment of one’s health, the electrical current is vital to keep an eye on the health and operation of electrical networks and components. The current can be of different types: large, small, high frequency, and low frequency.

Researchers, manufacturers, and solution providers always look for the sensors which can provide an economic and efficient operation. Rogowski coil sensors have been considered as one of the most favorite tools to measure a wide range of currents, from low to high amplitudes and frequencies, during normal as well as faulty operation. The coil sensor, in particular, has been proved to be a high performance device for proactive condition monitoring to predict and prevent electricity network failures**.

In addition to available research, outcomes of our research have explored the potential capabilities of such non-intrusive and inexpensive induction sensors. We have particularly focused on improved diagnostics (detection, location, and quantification) of the insulation defects emerging in the network components. Manual, onsite, periodic, and component and sensor specific monitoring technologies are commercially available. The next phase of our research, in this domain, is the remote sensor installation and efficient data acquisition with the help of commonly available digital processing techniques and telecommunication solutions. The focus is to develop an online (continuous) integrated monitoring & diagnostic system with user-friendly identification algorithms for automated detection and location of the incipient faults using a single type of sensors. Furthermore, the developed instrumentation technology can be easily incorporated into a new network built as well as be refurbished in the existing substation and distribution networks.


Shafiq, et al, Electromagnetic sensing for predictive diagnostics of electrical insulation defects in MV power lines.

Shafiq, et al, Performance Evaluation of PD Monitoring Technique Integrated into Medium Voltage Cable Network for Smart Condition Assessment.

Featured image taken in the Power system and High Voltage Engineering Laboratory at Aalto University, Finland, 2015.

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