Currently, many low voltage (LV) faults are only detected because they have reached the point where the customer is off supply and they must alert the electricity network of a fault. This means that there are LV faults which could be detected sooner, preventing customers from losing supply.

Powerline Technologies Ltd. have developed the VoltNet sensors, which aims to detect, classify and locate developing LV faults prior to them interrupting customers. The sensor applies algorithms to power waveforms in order to detect and classify instances of faults. The technology works by analysing the waveforms of the electricity voltage 100,000 times per second and identifying anomalies occurring in the cables.

A 250m LV cable was laid and connected to the PNDC testing network. Small holes were drilled into the cable to expose the phase conductors. During testing, controlled saline injections were performed to produce a self-extinguishing arc between the phase conductor and cable screen. The VoltNet sensors were then deployed on both ends of the test cable to capture the fault transients. Power quality analysers were also deployed as an additional source of measurement for validation.

The PNDC created realistic arc faults similar to those found on a real network, providing a credible data set to develop and verify the performance of the detection algorithms used by the VoltNet sensor.

Working with the PNDC to put VoltNet to the test on a simulated network has meant that the tool’s algorithms have been developed using realistic operating conditions in a safe and controlled environment without any interruption to public electricity supplies. Powerline Technologies were able to gain vital data to progress the sensor to its next stage and further develop the algorithm.

VoltNet must build knowledge of faults and learn to recognise conditions that can cause a fault. The tool’s learning of faults has been accelerated by the PNDC, giving Powerline Technologies an in-depth, complete and realistic end-to-end test of the sensor as well as beginning the “bank” of knowledge for the sensor.

It is predicted that VoltNet could half the number of power cuts currently experienced by electricity network customers. For Distribution System Operators (DNOs) replacing LV faults are not only expensive but labour intensive. The VoltNet tool is the solution to decreasing these costs through automation. The VoltNet solution is being validated in the SYNAPS NIA project.

Brian Lasslett, CEO of Powerline Technologies Ltd, said:

“Powerline Technologies utilised the PNDC as an essential part of the SYNAPS Low Voltage transient fault detection, classification and location NIA project. They provided a necessary bridge between the prototype development stage and real network testing with a Distribution Network Operator (DNO).

The PNDC allowed live fault testing on a representative DNO network which in turn, allowed Powerline Technologies to fully test the prototype SYNAPS NIA project Sensor without affecting network customers. It also allowed for a full demonstration of the prototype SYNAPS NIA project Sensor to the DNO, confirming network connection and safety requirements. During the planning and implementation of the testing, the PNDC was fully involved and provided very valuable input on capabilities, technical details, resource requirements and test planning. Furthermore, throughout the actual SYNAPS NIA project testing the PNDC provided the resources to support the testing activity as well as valuable input to support the implementation of the tests and interpretation of the results.

Without the PNDC it is likely that the real network testing would have been significantly delayed as the DNO would want to have the SYNAPS NIA project Sensor competently tested before connecting to their live networks and there was a risk that live network testing would not happen at all.”

Powerline Technologies Ltd, based in Bristol UK, designs and markets smart grid solutions to Distribution Networks Operators (DNO).

The Company has expertise in low and medium voltage distribution automation smart grid, cable health monitoring, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in power engineering applications. Powerline Technologies is part of the Fundamentals Group of companies and is the European representative for Aclara – grid monitoring overhead line sensors with predictive grid analytics software.

For more information on Powerline Technologies Ltd. Please visit: or tweet @PowerLTec

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