Energy Matters – May 2017

Included with this month’s Energy Matters:

Power Smart tip

LEDs are ideal for hard-to-reach places because they last a long time.

Making a smarter electrical grid

New technology is helping Manitoba Hydro restore power outages more efficiently.

The increased use of automation makes our electrical network “smarter” by allowing it to communicate with us. This two-way communication helps us operate more safely and improve reliability.

New equipment includes intelligent line sensors. These devices, located at our substations or attached to towers and power lines, tell our field staff more accurately where an outage is occurring. That helps lessen the time it takes for a crew to restore service.

Manitoba Hydro has installed approximately 370 intelligent line sensors on 25 power lines in Neepawa, Steinbach and Winnipeg since 2014 as part of a pilot project to improve outage restoration.

Normally, finding an outage can take a long time. A field crew must inspect the length of a power line to look for an outage, and the average power line is more than 36 kilometres. Basically, the crew drives along the line looking for something out of the ordinary, like a tree leaning on an overhead wire. This is a lot more difficult at night and in adverse weather, or when the problem isn’t as obvious as a tree.

By having a number of these sensors spread out along a line, the response crew can narrow down the location of an outage, fix it and restore customers more efficiently, minimizing interruption time.

Manitoba Hydro is also piloting the use of intelligent line sensors in more isolated areas of the province, most notably on the Lake Winnipeg East System. This power line extends from Pine Falls north to Poplar River and includes a line east to Little Grand Rapids.

The remote area poses unique challenges for Manitoba Hydro crews responding to an outage. Access to some communities most of the year is by air. They also lack cell coverage, which is what most intelligent line sensors need to communicate.

To get around that hurdle, staff installed sensors that communicate by satellite.

When the sensor detects a fault or loss of current, it sends a message via satellite. This provides our crews with additional information about an outage before they get on the plane. It means they can get to work that much sooner to restore service.

Learn more about the “smart grid” at the SmartGrid Canada website.

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A bird sits on a power line – why isn’t it shocked?

We’re told from a young age to never to touch power lines so we don’t get shocked, seriously injured or even killed.

But how can a bird sit on a power line without getting shocked?

Electrical current flows in a path called a circuit. It will not leave the circuit unless it can find another path to the ground. When the current reaches the part of the wire where the bird is sitting, it has two options – it could travel through the bird or stay on its circuit.

Because the bird isn’t touching the ground, it’s easier for the current to stay on its path, and the bird stays safe.

But if the bird spreads its wings and one wing touches the pole, it would create a shorter and easier path to the ground. The electrical current would then run through the bird to get to the ground which would electrocute the bird.

In the same way, if you were on a ladder or tree and touched the wire, you would be electricity’s instant path to the ground.

Why doesn’t the current travel to the ground down the pole?

Electrical current travels easily through metal and water. These are called electrical conductors. Because your body is mostly water, electricity can also travel easily through you. And if electricity travels through you, it’s likely you could be seriously hurt or even killed.

Power lines are isolated from poles by insulators. Insulators are made from material like glass and ceramic that an electrical current cannot easily get through, stopping electricity from travelling down the pole.

Insulating material also keeps electricity inside appliance cords. Rubber or plastic insulation around the cords keeps the electricity in the wires and prevents you from getting a shock.

If this insulation is broken or wears off, the electricity can come through and shock you. Also, if you overload an outlet by plugging in too many things, cord insulation can overheat and melt, causing a shock and fire hazard.

Always treat electricity with caution.

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Winnipeg Humane Society

Join Manitoba’s largest celebration of pets June 25, 2017 at Assiniboine Park’s Lyric Theatre 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Fairmont Winnipeg Paws in Motion is the Winnipeg Humane Society’s largest fundraising event of the year! Register as an individual, a family or start a team today to help animals in our community! See the Winnipeg Humane Society website for more details!

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