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Partial Discharge Detection Made Easy With Acoustic Imaging

In a quest for a user-friendly method for partial discharge detection in power lines and substations, an international electric utility company discovered an advanced acoustic camera (266-7032) to be the perfect solution.

Partial discharges, widely known as PDs, are localized electrical breakdowns within insulating materials used in electrical systems. While these mundane everyday occurrences are seemingly insignificant, they can pose a grave threat to companies operating in the energy sector. Detecting PDs is of paramount importance because they often signal underlying issues that, if left unaddressed, can escalate into major failures, causing power outages, equipment damage, and even safety hazards. In the energy industry, where uninterrupted power supply is crucial, the consequences of these disruptions are far-reaching and costly. Early detection of PDs allows for timely maintenance and repairs, preventing catastrophic breakdowns, minimizing downtime, and ensuring the reliability and safety of the electrical infrastructure, making it an essential aspect of maintaining a robust and resilient energy grid.

Key Challenges in Partial Discharge Detection for the Energy Sector

Inarguably critical in the energy sector, partial discharge detection is certainly not without its challenges. Some of the industry-typical issues placing demands on predictive maintenance solutions include the following:

  • PDs are often difficult to detect in their early stages before they escalate into critical failures.
  • Utilities tend to use a wide range of insulator materials (solid, air, gas, vacuum, liquid), making PD detection complex.
  • Power lines and substations are often located in remote or hard-to-reach areas, making regular inspections difficult and costly.
  • Inspections and maintenance work to address detected PDs can disrupt the power supply, causing inconvenience to customers and additional costs to the utility companies.
  • Investing in PD detection equipment and its maintenance, as well as frequent disruptions in power supply due to inspection rounds can be expensive for utility companies.
  • Many utilities have ageing infrastructure, which is more prone to PDs, requiring proactive monitoring and maintenance.
  • Compliance with industry regulations and standards for PD detection can be challenging to achieve consistently.

Impressively Effortless with Clear-Cut Results

Seeking to meet the challenges common in the industry and hoping to find an easy-to-use, yet effective predictive maintenance solution, an international electric utility company decided to try acoustic imaging to detect partial discharges within its facilities. The results were impressive, as the acoustic camera (266-7032) was quickly able to locate PDs in power lines, substation cable terminations, and 20 kV NAL disconnectors. The energy company’s maintenance crew was immediately impressed by how safe and easy the lightweight device was to operate, even with minimal training and using only one hand. Not only was the acoustic camera able to scan large areas at a time, but it also allowed for inspections to be conducted from a safe distance to the electrically charged equipment and power lines. In addition to being extremely user-friendly, the camera also delivered clear-cut results and helped the company take appropriate action by providing an assessment of the severity of faults. Following the impressive performance of the trial run, the electric utility company decided to include acoustic cameras in its predictive maintenance routine and use them regularly for surveys and troubleshooting inspections in its power lines and substations.

One Solution, Many Benefits

The many benefits of using an acoustic camera for partial discharge detection in the energy sector include being able to quickly scan large areas from a distance and pinpoint critical issues early on. This helps prevent catastrophic failures and reduce expensive downtime, while helping to comply with industry standards and regulations, such as the SAIDI and SAIFI indices that compare electrical utilities’ performance reliability. Acoustic imaging also delivers actionable data with the help of machine-learning-powered analytics, providing decision support for maintenance and repair plans. Acoustic cameras are safe and easy to operate for the maintenance team, and the inspections can be carried out 10 times faster than with traditional methods, without disrupting the power supply.

Find out more about the FLIR Si124-PD (266-7032)

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