Outage detectives

Ever wonder what goes into restoring your power after an outage? The ordeal of losing electricity can be frustrating, but electric cooperatives are always looking for ways to get the power back on as soon and safely as possible.

As soon as an outage is detected, your electric co-op is working to correct the problem. And thanks to new and more advanced technologies, co-ops can restore power outages faster than ever.

Powering up after an outage starts on a larger level and ends up in local areas. First, high-voltage transmission lines are examined, then distribution stations, then main distribution lines. If the outage can’t be pinpointed to these areas, tap lines and individual homes are inspected. This process allows your electric co-op to efficiently help the most members in the shortest amount of time, and co-ops are working to make this process move even faster.

One of the biggest advancements in technology that electric co-ops are using is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). These smart meters allow for two-way communications and work by sending information back to the co-op’s operations center. This helps to distinguish between events that affect a single home or multiple outages, which is important because solving either issue is a very different process. The two-way communication also provides a way to verify that power has been restored after an outage.

Another technology is the Outage Management System (OMS), which can predict the location of the issue and how many members are impacted. Especially when used with the AMI system, the OMS can be extremely useful for a co-op’s effectiveness in resolving an outage. As the AMI collects and sends data, the OMS then analyzes it to assess the impact of the outage.

One of the major benefits from improved technologies, especially for outages caused by extreme weather, is understanding where the outages are located, which helps to reduce risk for crews out on the road during the weather events.

These technologies clearly benefit electric co-ops and the members they serve. Power outages are inevitable, but as technology continues to improve, disruptions are becoming shorter and easier to resolve.  

Maria Kanevsky is a program manager for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.