This winter's cold temperatures have provided an opportunity for Jamestown Board of Public Utilities line workers to undertake tasks that have improved reliability and prevented numerous potential outages in the electric division's transmission and distribution system.
With the use of two infrared cameras, crews have examined all the system's high voltage overhead lines, switches, transformers and connections, to determine where there may be loose connections or equipment that is overloaded. By examining equipment utilizing an infrared camera, ''hot spots'' or trouble areas can be discovered and repaired before the problems develop into electrical outages.
Bitter cold temperature days provide an excellent time to locate loose connections or hot spots due to the higher demand on the system.
BPU employee utilizing the infrared camera to inspect electrical equipment.
Electric customers tend to use more electricity on frigid days, whether it is for extra electric heating, the addition of portable electric heaters or the utilization of more lights and appliances during the time when people stay inside due to challenging weather.
As an infrared camera is pointed at equipment, the camera, through thermal imaging, measures the temperature of the equipment. While one area may show a temperature of 132 degrees, for instance, the rest of the equipment on a pole may reflect a 22 degree reading. The actual "hot spot" of 132 degrees indicates that there is a potential problem at that location which eventually could lead to an outage.
The employee using the camera also has the ability to record - both visually and vocally - the area that could cause a problem with information such as the pole number, the location and the problem. In some cases, when a loose connection is found, the process is as easy as tightening the connection, rechecking the spot with the camera and discovering that the temperature in the repaired location has gone down to within normal range.
Other times, more extensive repairs are required and, once identified by the inspection process, can be scheduled for repair. This process presents a more orderly way to undertake preventive maintenance compared to accomplishing the work under the pressures of a real-time outage when employees and customers are anxious to have power restored quickly.
Utilizing infrared cameras in the entire BPU electric transmission and distribution system during this unusually cold winter has pinpointed 45-50 potential problem areas that have been or will be fixed to avoid a possible outage. This process represents one more way in which the BPU works to improve electrical reliability. Without the use of the infrared cameras, some of these problems would only have surfaced when an outage occurs.