Power Monitors: Future-Proofing Power Quality Monitoring
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Chris Mullins, President
Utility engineers face an unprecedented challenge with today’s aging electric distribution system and modern customer loads. Today’s electronic devices often cause distortion on power lines, presenting problems for other customers, and are also sensitive to incoming power quality issues. The rise of distributed solar and wind generation, outside of the utility control, presents another challenge with even basic voltage regulation across the distribution network. With the increased demand for reliable, quality power - even in residential areas (where many are working from home), the utility sector is struggling to meet the challenge. Lack of manpower is also driving utility engineers to ‘do more work with fewer people’.
Against this challenging backdrop, remote communications and analytical tools make a significant difference, with ruggedized wireless outdoor sensors and software tools that automatically flag problems and even predict failures before they happen.
This is precisely what Virginia-based Power Monitors, Inc. (PMI) brings to the table with their dedication to creating utility power quality tools and monitoring solutions since 1987.
PMI is the leading manufacturer of power quality analyzers and wireless power quality monitoring solutions for residential, commercial, retail, institutional, industrial, and substation applications. “We provide a rugged line of measurement tools and software to help utilities quickly solve their distribution quality problems while also providing a wide range of services, including round the clock technical support and industry-leading training,” says Chris Mullins, President of PMI. What’s more, their products are line powered, weatherproof, wireless, and small enough to fit anywhere—helping utility engineers measure and troubleshoot at a substation, power pole, inside a transformer, or even in a meter base or electrical panel.
For a company that’s been helping utilities solve power quality issues for over 30 years, Mullins believes the basis for their success is an approach of engaging with utilities backed by a passion for research and development. “We’re always listening to our customers and their problems in the field. All our products and features stem from working with utility engineers, listening to what they need, and then helping them to solve their problems with better tools.” Adds Mullins. This interactive approach is what enables Power Monitors to develop focused products in their state-of-theart R&D lab, tailored to utility engineering needs.
To stay at the leading edge, the company participates in many IEEE utility technical committees, assisting in creating new power quality standards. Another important facet is the PMI educational library. Their engineers have written hundreds of white papers and case studies on power quality topics, focused on helping utility engineers understand complex data and solve problems. Many of these are based on actual utility issues and problems solved. “By creating educational papers based on real world utility cases, we not only train our engineers on the needs of our customers, but also spread this hard-won knowledge to all other utilities,” states Mullins. In addition, PMI provides both free and accredited power quality training classes, along with handson product training. These training sessions are available in-person around the country and online virtually.
As an example of customer-driven product development, Mullins recollects an instance when two utilities approached him with a need for a low-cost way to measure and control small scale distributed generation. Existing solutions for large solar and wind systems do not scale down to the smaller, much more common 25 kW to 1 MW installations in distribution. The utilities asked PMI to create a product that would allow them to not only control their customer generation but also measure it. Working with the two utilities to create this focused product, Power Monitors introduced the Eclipse, an ideal system for Distributed Energy Resource (DERs) control and monitoring. “It enabled real-time monitoring with email alerts and cloud-based data storage and analysis, helping our clients track DER power flow and voltage regulation, and also gives them a method to switch the generation off during times of voltage regulation problems, weather events, or work on the line,” affirms Mullins.
We provide a rugged line of measurement tools and software to help utilities quickly find and solve their distribution quality problems
Speaking about the PMI roadmap, Mullins discussed the PMI R&D team’s focus on advanced machine learning and analytics. Underlining their impact on the utility sector, he draws attention to the improvements not only in power quality, but also in distribution reliability that stem from machine learning algorithms predicting faults. The machine learning and AI tools by Power Monitors will allow utilities to automatically identify existing power quality problems, and even predict problems and equipment failures before they happen. “This is the next step for utilities, where a system will be assisting them with cloud-based machine learning to help them understand what’s happening now, and what will happen in the future, without having to look at every piece of information manually,” concludes Mullins.
Description Power Monitors has been helping utilities solve power quality issues for over 30 years with premium power quality analyzers and wireless power quality monitoring solutions. Their products are line powered, weatherproof, wireless, and small enough to fit anywhere—helping utility engineers measure and troubleshoot at a substation, power pole, inside a transformer, or even in a meter base or electrical panel. Moreover, to stay at the leading edge, the company participates in many IEEE utility technical committees, assisting in creating new power quality standards. Another important facet is the PMI educational library. Their engineers have written hundreds of white papers and case studies on power quality topics, focused on helping utility engineers understand complex data and solve problems
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