What’s hot and what’s not …

Oct 13, 2021

What’s hot and what’s not … The image on the left is a normal view of an electric transformer with naked eye. At right, the same transformer as a FLIR image. GRDA used the FLIR technology last week to identify an overheating transformer an address the issue before an outage occurred.

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

For several years now, the Grand River Dam Authority has used a handheld FLIR (forward looking infrared) camera to see what the human eye simply cannot see: loose connections in electric substations, and along power lines, that can cause breakers, transformers, and other components to overheat. When the camera’s viewfinder is pinpointed on a certain location, it can display the temperature of that location. That technology makes it much easier to diagnose potential problems. GRDA also uses the infrared technology to inspect buildings to locate areas where heat and energy is being lost due to poor insulation or sealing.

Of course, when those problems can be spotted early, the repair can be much simpler – and much less expensive – than those times when the problem makes itself known the hard way. In such instances, the result could be lengthy, complicated repairs, possibly coupled with an extended outage.

Just last week, in the GRDA municipal customer community of Stilwell, the FLIR camera was able to identify a transformer at a city substation that was starting to overheat. It was something the human eye would not have noticed, until it was too late, by which time an outage and further damage may have occurred. GRDA and Stilwell Utilities worked together to correct the problem. Within three and half hours of the discovery of the overheating transformer, GRDA crews had installed a mobile substation to carry the load in place of the overheating transformer.

Whether that customer is an Oklahoma public power community or one of the industries in the MidAmerica Industrial Park served by GRDA, reliability and energy efficiency are vital to their operations. Infrared imaging allows GRDA to maintain that level of service, while also fulfilling the opening lines of its mission statement to “deliver affordable, reliable electricity.”

GRDA is Oklahoma’s largest public power electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: employees, electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, and efficiency.