Accurate, modular, and affordable optical sensing technology platform provides greater visibility of distribution grid, allowing utilities to safely integrate renewables
Our nation's utilities are at a critical crossroads in the transmission, distribution, and generation of electricity. Renewable integration, power quality issues, and reliability concerns create a desperate need for grid operators to have better diagnostic tools, while the creation of a bi-directional energy flow on the grid is making traditional sensors and measurement equipment that were designed for a one-directional system obsolete. Optical sensors being developed by Micatu, Incorporated, a leader in cutting-edge optical sensing technology, are bridging the measurement gap to modernizing the grid as the industry seeks contemporary solutions.
"When grid disruption can be measured, it can be managed," said Michael Oshetski, founder and CEO of Micatu Incorporated, the first company to commercialize optical sensing technology. "Disruptive technology like Micatu's optical sensing platform allows grid operators to accurately measure voltage, current, temperature, and vibrations. Micatu is the only technology provider driving measurement to this level of insight, giving users actionable intelligence that helps them provide safer, more reliable power."
While optical sensing technology is not new, Micatu's commercialization of an optical sensing platform is unique and becoming widely recognized as a safer and more accurate way to measure voltage and current on the grid. The platform measures the electric field using light passed through an optical crystal instead of passing electrons. It can measure distribution lines ranging from 4kV to 72kV.
"Optical sensors cannot be saturated, which makes them much safer than the traditional sensors that reach saturation and explode or combust and potentially cause wildfires. Micatu's 72Kv optical sensor has been tested with a 175kA transient and passed with zero saturation and no damage," said Oshetski. "You just don't have the same risks with optical sensors that you find with legacy equipment, like open electrical circuits that may harm field crews, equipment overheating, or explosive failures. It is nearly impossible for optical sensors to cause a catastrophic failure, and they do not require the forced outages of PT or CT installation."
Micatu's optical sensing technology leads the industry in accuracy, with some testing up to +/- 0.5% accuracy on both voltage and current due to the speed at which the platform samples measurements. The Micatu platform's sample speed is one of the fastest in the industry, taking 15,000 samples per cycle. This level of granularity is unprecedented but necessary with the influx of distributed energy resources. Legacy equipment, such as PTs and CTs, have much smaller sample sizes and cannot measure at this same level.
There are also several essential metrics that Micatu's optical sensing platform will measure that other measurement tools cannot. While legacy PTs and CTs can provide voltage, current, phase angle, and harmonics, Micatu's optical sensors can also detect the power quality and harmonic distortion resulting from renewables and non-linear loads.
"Data is the new currency of the grid, and a utility can only be as reliable as the data it collects," said Oshetski. "That's why data accuracy is so critical to software systems such as the Advanced Distribution Automation Systems (ADMS), which has become the gold standard in grid operations. Micatu's optical sensors provide the most accurate data in the market and seamlessly integrates with this and any grid operations software."
Another benefit of Micatu's optical sensing technology is the modularity of the platform. With overhead, underground, and groundless options available, optical sensors can be easily deployed where they are most needed to collect data and enable seamless distribution automation applications for the next generation of the grid. Legacy measurement equipment does not offer underground options.
For many use cases, Micatu's sensors can be fully installed within three hours and require a smaller crew than a PT or CT installation. This results in lower costs for utilities, and in some cases, utilities can save up to 50% of their total costs compared to PT and CT solutions when deployed inside a substation, for example.
Micatu's optical sensing technology is created to be flexible. The platform will grow with the grid, providing "hot-swappable" technology that can be easily upgraded to leverage new capabilities from advances in chip and software designs. The optical sensors offer opportunities to have one platform that feeds real-time grid measurements to a utility's selected software system.
To learn more about how Micatu's optical sensing technology platform is helping to modernize the grid and mitigate disruption, download our white paper HERE.