Fixing blackouts faster by going back in time

Reza Razzaghi – Monash University

Blackouts could be over a lot quicker thanks to a new technology that can pinpoint the location of a short circuit anywhere in the electricity grid in less than a minute.  

In 2017, 157 power outages happened in Australia, affecting 1.2 million people. An outage can translate to enormous losses for businesses. As an example, the average total cost per minute of an unplanned outage for data centres is $8851.

Reza Razzaghi and his colleagues at Monash University researcher developed a technology that can significantly reduce the outage costs by minimising the time it takes to detect and locate short circuits in power networks.

“Current technologies require hundreds of devices installed in power networks and take on average 90 minutes to pinpoint the location of a fault. We worked out how to use a single device per grid and we can get results in less than a minute.

“We analyse the voltage fluctuations caused by the fault at a single measurement point in the network and calculate backwards in time to identify the fault location.”

The technology is also compatible with renewable energy sources, Reza says. Faster identification of faults can also help to prevent bushfires ignited by power line failures, which are one of the major reasons for bushfires.

Image: Going back in time to locate short circuits in power grids. Credit: EPFL / Alain Herzog

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