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IT connection: Ensuring speed for Ecs to solve power cuts during polls
by Delmar Cariño

The marching order is clear for distribution utilities and electric cooperatives (ECs) on election day – there should be no power glitch or else pay the price of public contempt.

The systems then should be in place – well-oiled transformers, a 24/7 roving crew, corrected sagging cables, and system reload for substations.

The task is indeed more compelling for the country’s 119 ECs since they are the key players in a highly technical industry that directly convey power to the polling centers. The ECs must see to it that there will be no outage when those Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines run for 12 hours on May 13.

Believe me, it’s one hell of a job. That’s basically managing a marathon of electrons from 69,000 volts to as low as 230 volts.

But what if, by act of God, called force majeure, the power suddenly blinked? The ECs have no option to panic. The sequence or response though is already in place – secure the area of failure, determine the cause, input the remedy, inform the clients and log the data for future reference. But how would the information be relayed? The key lies alongside the system. It’s information relay.

This is the one that makes the systems interact with humans. If electricity flows fast, so must communication. Thanks to Information Technology (IT), Benguet Electric Cooperative has its own system to address the concern.

But first, the grid connection

Beneco has seven power substations in five different locations.

In Baguio City, the sub-stations are found in Irisan (10 Megavolt Ampere), Lamut (10MVA), and North Sanitary Camp (one 50MVA unit and two 20MVA units).

In Benguet, the sub-stations are found in Atok (15MVA) and Bulalacao in Mankayan (3.75MVA).

The grid dumps the power to these substations to start the network distribution. The substations feed the power to feeders and circuits that will convey the current to the backbone of the distribution system.

Feeders one to 13 are located in Baguio City while circuits one to five are in Benguet. These feeders and circuits will cascade the power through distribution transformers before power goes into primary and secondary lines. The latter brings the current into your houses.

So how would the electric cooperative react to a power interruption via IT? It would depend where the fault lies. Either the interruption occurred at the substation, feeders, circuits, or along the primary and secondary lines.

If the power dimmed at the substations or along the feeders, the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system helps a lot. This SCADA is a top of the line equipment composed of monitors at the Beneco office in DPS, Baguio City and closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) cameras in the substations.

It can alert the main station at DPS of any power glitch. The outage could be pick up (temporary) or trip off (permanent). The SCADA can be operated on to solve the former, which was caused by fallen trees or external objects. For the latter, a crew has to be sent to the site since the outage was brought about by more serious causes that made the outage permanent. The SCADA is a viewing experience.

From DPS, it can switch on the fan of the Atok, Benguet substation or open and close its breakers. The SCADA can also detect outages in the feeders and circuits.

The reclosers installed in them can feed the data to the SCADA through its intelligent electronic devices (IEDs). The data relayed will form the basis to determine the measures to be taken in arresting a power fault. The SCADA is a new version of the old fuse cut-out technology.
Now what’s a recloser?

These are devices to detect faults and trips. They are mostly attached to primary lines (23,000 volts or 13,200 volts). They detect faults and relay information to the SCADA. They also isolate the faults along the line and would automatically open to isolate the line affected by the interruption and close to connect the line and let power flow anew.

Beneco has 41 reclosers already installed. Their IEDs provide the fast relay of information through wireless communication technology wherein control and monitoring is done at Beneco’s maintenance headquarters at DPS. Good we have Rocky Pallogan, Joaquin Calawen, and Ramel Rifani, all top gun engineers who made this stuff understandable.

Why wireless communication?

Because messages can be relayed without the need of physically installing long lines of wires to connect one end to another, it’s a lot cheaper than installing long lines.

Beneco’s two-way radios and Internet protocol (IP) phones exemplify the use of the wireless. The two-way radios come into play through a radio frequency while the IP phones work through the antennas. This system enables a Beneco employee in Buguias to talk to his colleague in Baguio City and watch themselves in an LCD monitor. Morris Labitoria, Beneco’s IT chief, explains that the information is relayed through electronic signals from one end to another through antenna transceivers that convert electronic data into transmittable wireless signals. The receiver on the other end will convert the data into electronic data readable by electronic equipment.

Today, Beneco has more than 100 units of IP phones. They can be readily used to inform the operations department of any power outage along the system.

The use of fiber optics has further boosted Beneco’s wireless system, although they are just up to 26 kilometers within Baguio City and La Trinidad. Fiber optics are far more reliable than the wireless since they are more efficient in terms of bandwidth, meaning the capacity of data it can transmit is more than what the wireless can carry. The wireless though suffers from intermittent signals. But either way, wireless or fiber optic, both are available in Beneco’s system for information dissemination on power cuts.

Lastly, there’s the short messaging services or SMS you and I can easily use to inform Beneco that somewhere in Bakun for instance, the electricity suddenly went off.

Beneco has its server at Km. 4, La Trinidad and there’s a program devised for a specific number that can receive complaints of power interruption. The dedicated number is 0917-878-2400.

Thanks to technology, voters can be assured this year’s automated polls will not be bugged by major power interruptions, at least in Baguio and Benguet.

Other news
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:: What the public should realize in choosing their leaders
:: Epal ka ba? Of papers and elections
:: Politicos, then and now
:: Search for the
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:: Local Politics in the era of automated elections
:: Automated Elections:
How a young blood sees it
:: Electronic voting part 2: Are there loopholes to be guarded?
:: Is Political dynasty the same as political destiny?
:: Mission: To impress or to depress?
:: Our candidates, the automated polls, and our elders
:: Travails along the campaign trail… And beyond

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