Of the approximately 1 million transformers used by U.S. electric utilities, only about 2 percent are currently monitored. As the grid becomes smarter and the ability to access and monitor information from networks of distribution transformers and overhead lines develops, utilities will be able to realize savings, improve efficiency and reliability, and avoid large unnecessary capital costs. For example, with accurate real-time, low-cost monitoring, utilities could reduce reserve margins from as much as 20 percent to as little as 10 percent, which on a nationwide basis, could avoid almost $100 billion of capital expenditure of the next 20 years.

In a move toward increasing transformer monitoring, GridSense, a portfolio company of Acorn Energy, recently announced a partnership with On-Ramp Wireless to develop the first affordable utility distribution-point monitoring system. This new system for distribution automation combines the GridSense TransformerIQ platform with On-Ramp’s Ultra-Link Processing (ULP). The two companies will jointly pilot the monitoring solution.

The partners claim that, together, these technologies will enable utilities to cost-effectively deploy secure and reliable wireless monitoring throughout their distribution network for asset monitoring and fault indication aimed at improving outage restoration. With a single wireless device, it provides alerts to power quality issues, captures power thefts and acts as a hub for demand-side load management.

On-Ramp’s ULP system can support 20,000 TransformerIQ monitors per access point. This provides capacity for other distribution automation applications and securely delivers transformer data to a utility’s outage management, demand management and other systems. GridSense TransformerIQ is a quick retrofit onto existing energized distribution transformers, enabling a lower cost system upgrade without the impact of an outage or downtime.