Paducah Power System is continuing an RF scanning project aimed at identifying potential problems in its 326 miles of distribution lines before they lead to system outages.

After completion of a successful pilot program, Paducah Power System officials have approved spending $82,400 on an outage prevention program which will benefit the utility and its customers going forward.

The move will allow Exacter Turnkey Services to conduct RF scans of the remaining 226 miles of Paducah Power System distribution lines that were not included in the pilot program conducted earlier this summer. Using the scans and software they have, Exacter can pinpoint issues that can be addressed before an outage occurs.

Results of the pilot program which started in May, were presented to the PPS board at its August meeting.

Paducah Power already does some outage prevention work, including a a visual inspection and infrared scans twice a year of the system’s primary lines, said Rick Windhorst, PPS assistant general manager.

“Exacter actually does RF emission scans. They’re looking for radio frequencies coming off our line. That way they can detect things before they start to heat up, so you have a larger span of time to catch that outage before it causes damage,” he said.

“If you’ll remember, they (Exacter) gave us a break for the project project and did 100 miles for us for right under $20,000,” Windhorst told the board Monday.

“They found 43 things for us (in the pilot program). We went and checked each one and all of them turned out to be an issue that would have been an outage,” he said. “So, we feel like the project was a success because it turned out to be 100% accurate.”

One of the ways to determine a return on investment is use of an interruption cost estimator developed at the Lawrence Livermore Berkeley National Lab, Windhorst said. The ICE helps utilities determine the economic impact of improving reliability by decreasing the number of outages and the duration of outages.

“If the second part goes as well as the pilot did, for our entire system we’re estimating that over a five-year period it looks like a total savings of $330,000 to the community and to Paducah Power,” Windhorst said.

“It’s an estimate because nobody knows how long it would take for some of those items (identified by scans) to fail when when the system finds them. We know it has started the process of breaking down.

“You know it will happen, it’s just an estimate of how long. It’s one of the few things we can do that’s really proactive and feel like we’re saving some people some outages, instead of just going and fixing it afterwards.”

While some utilities have their entire system scanned annually, Windhorst recommended completing the entire system to establish a benchmark.

“I just feel like it’s worth it for us to go ahead and do this. I don’t know that we want to do this every year,” he said.

“I want to see if we can tell a difference going forward. We may start at one point doing a fourth of our system and get into a rotation, of doing a portion of our system every year.”

Follow David Zoeller on Twitter, @DZoeller_The Sun

Follow David Zoeller on Twitter, @DZoeller_The Sun

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