Tag Archives: utilities

Wish You Had an Easy Web App to Save Millions?

By Florian Brandi-Dohrn, AED-SICAD

Connecting renewables to the grid is a complex workflow and process for utilities. For instance, where does one place outlets for electric cars without endangering grid stability and energy provision security? Or, for a new residential area, how does one plan the new lines and connect them to the grid intelligently? These manual processes deserve a better way, especially in an era of continuous digitalization of our core processes. Thankfully, we developed the UT Smart Apps to solve just this challenge.

Some of the leading DSOs are using the UT Smart Apps. These JavaScript-based web clients running in the Esri Portal come in three modular flavors:

PLAN
The PLAN module allows you to create planning projects and scenarios. Design as many scenarios as you like and draw the grid for each scenario as you like. Add the load, or the generated energy at each end point, and use the CAD-like construction tools to be sure that each point is at the right location.

CALC
Second, the CALC module allows you to start a network calculation (e.g., a load flow) with one simple click. Most importantly, this network calculation runs directly on your precious, low-voltage GIS data. . Using the CALC module, you can simulate various planning scenarios. In addition, you can simulate switching scenarios in case you’d like to re-configure the grid due to new, planned assets.

EDIT
Finally, the EDIT module allows you to update the switch status. The correct switch status is an important aspect in the use of these Smart Apps, because the correct topology is a very important piece of information for the network calculation. For ease of use, many users have combined all this functionality into one convenient web app.

Why Use UT Smart Apps?

Those DSOs working with the UT Smart Apps cut down in the technical evaluation of new service points, new renewable plants, or simply electric outlets for cars. Some current users report getting 95% of their technical evaluations down from 15 hours to just 30 minutes. And of course, all technical evaluations are now properly documented, allowing for each decision to be backed up with a proper document detailing the load flow calculation that was run.

The UT Smart Apps save utilities millions of dollars per year, thanks to their dramatic reductions in time spent manually calculating the impact of grid connections. On average, the apps help planning engineers shave 15 hours off the assessment of new grid connections, especially for renewable sources.

AED-SICAD is partnering with Esri Platinum Partner SSP Innovations to implement the UT Smart Apps at U.S. utilities. Find AED-SICAD and SSP in the exhibitor hall at the 2017 Esri User Conference in San Diego, booths 927 and 926. Don’t hesitate to ask either of them about the UT Smart Apps in person.

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Digital Transition vs. Digital Transformation

Recently, my wife had heart surgery. It was the most amazing technological procedure imaginable. Talk about digital transformation. Robots, fiber optic cables, micro cameras, and digital imagery made it possible for surgeons to go inside her heart and make the necessary repairs. It was easy for me to imagine that the surgeon could have performed the operation at home, miles away from the hospital.  There was no cutting. She had no scars other than a couple of tiny pin holes.

My wife came through just fine. That was the good news. The bad news was that although the surgery itself was a miracle of modern technology, the work flow and procedures getting her in and out of the hospital were right out of the 20th century.

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Esri Utility Network—You’ve Come a Long Way

My granddaughter, Gloria, interviewed me for a school project. One of her questions was, “Where were you when you asked your wife [her grandmother] out for your first date?” I, of course, remember it like it was yesterday. I answered, “It was in a phone booth in Harvard Square in Cambridge.” She looked at me quizzically and asked, “What’s a phone booth, Pop?” Her phone was tucked away in her back pocket.

Funny how fast things disappear from our collective memory.

When I first worked for a power company, one of my projects was to fix the many issues with the mapping department. Back then, everything was manual: the drafting, the reproduction, and the distribution of prints of the ancient paper maps. Those old things were notoriously out-of-date. The field offices had stacks of map sheets that needed to be filed. Most of the field supervisors kept their own sets of marked-up map prints. It was a mess.

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The Wise GIS

ArcGIS Makes It Simple to Answer the Why

My wife’s Auntie Sadie was born old. I’ve seen pictures of her when she was in her late thirties and, even then, she looked old. One of her most endearing qualities was her wisdom. Maybe that’s why she looked old, because she was so wise. When our kids misbehaved, Sadie would be able to look at things from a number of different angles, take apparently unrelated information, and craft her wise analysis of the reasons for the misbehavior. Her special gift was analysis.

In my last two posts, I described three things that the ArcGIS platform does that can transform the way an electric company does its business. They each begin with the letter A. The first is access—the simple ability to give everyone in the company (as well as others such as customers, first responders, and the media) the ability to see its important information on a map, regardless of which device they use, where they are, or what time it is.

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A Lesson from Social Networks

Why Real-Time Collaboration Matters for Electric Utilities

Tony Zingale, the executive chair of Jive Software, once quipped, “We know more about what our high school girlfriends had for dinner than what’s going on within our organization.” Why is that?

For one thing, our consumer apps and social media platforms are built around the notion of collaboration, not workflow. But doesn’t workflow require collaboration? Exactly.

The general lack of internal awareness within organizations is tied to the business IT world’s lagging behind consumer applications. Many of today’s enterprise IT systems model specific workflows. In the electric utility business, IT systems are organized along departmental lines. Integration among electric utility systems has been tough, expensive, and clunky.

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What’s Going On Right Now?

GIS Increases Awareness

There is a significant shift in how electric utilities use geographic information system (GIS) technology. In the old days and maybe even now, utility staff thought GIS was a system that automates the mapping process. And yes, it could also provide good information to other critical systems, such as outage management systems (OMS) or distribution management systems (DMS). Advanced utilities even used GIS to help in the design and construction of their facilities. That’s all great.

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Live from EGGC 2015: Startups Showcase – How Esri’s Startup Program Drives Change

EGGC

Over the past 25 years, the annual Esri Electric and Gas GIS Conference (EGGC) has become the largest annual geospatial event for utility professionals in the world. This year’s conference focuses on how utilities can employ the latest GIS technology … Continue reading

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The Deadly Backlog: A Hole in the Safety Net

Interactive Maps Communicate Real-time Information to Plug the Holes

We have all heard the term safety net. It’s a system, a policy, a program, or device used to protect its owners just in case something bad happens. For example, people often refer to social security as a safety net for older people who don’t have a pension. The term comes to us from the circus, where large, roped nets are set up below trapeze artists. Without the nets, sweaty palms or small distractions could mean instant death. But with the net, they fall harmlessly and land with only a fright. However, most trapeze artists never want to fall. First of all, falling is a sign of failure. Second, when the term originated, the circus actors didn’t trust the integrity of the net, as circuses had and have notoriously bad maintenance. Safety nets have flaws. Trapeze artists know that. Some nets even have holes. Continue reading

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Electric Utilities Need Answers

GIS Responds to the Tough Questions

Electric utilities face a new world–one in which the infrastructure is aging along with the workers. The price of everything keeps going up. Customers want better and faster service, but some of them cannot pay their bills. Natural disasters seem to get nastier each year. Governments continue to dole out more and more regulations. The community wants better service, lower emissions, and fewer mishaps. It’s a political nightmare to raise rates. Plus, the new smart grid devices are smothering utility operators with data.

In short: utilities cannot continue to operate as they have been. Utilities need a better way to do business. GIS can help. Continue reading

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Sharing Information to Support Smart Grid

I recently co-presented a session on GIS and the Smart Grid to a group of about 150 folks from the gas and electric utilities and the telecommunications businesses. We thought it might be interesting to have the groups come together since as more and more utilities implement Smart Grid (electric and gas), there will become greater interdependencies on one another. We further thought that this session would be a great opportunity for each company to tell us their current practices on sharing data, problems and issues. The premise was, of course, that since ArcGIS is a platform which facilitates sharing of information, that both groups could give us feedback on how best to facilitate collaboration. Much to our surprise, the groups do not have much collaboration at all. In fact, they hadn’t really considered it very seriously. When I probed them further, I asked, well how do you share information with each other? One utility guy, perhaps, half-jokingly said that he bought his friend from the phone company a beer and that’s when they shared information.

The biggest take away from this session was this: the discussion on this topic hasn’t really started. It should. Continue reading

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