Puerto Rico as a warning to power grid operators

Only a week after Canadian Utility Luma Energy took over transmission and distribution of electricity in Puerto Pico, a massive explosion rocked the Monacillos power distribution substation in the capital city of San Juan, leaving over 800,000 customers in the dark. The incident further raises tensions in a country where prolonged power outages and grid mismanagement have made electricity a major sociopolitical issue.

Several hours before the explosion, LUMA Energy reported that a denial of service attack was being targeted at their mobile and desktop customer service portals, with over 2 million requests per second, preventing most of LUMA’s clients from accessing their account information. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the DDOS attack was related to the substation explosion, however LUMA did confirm that it had been reported to the relevant authorities and was a subject of ongoing investigation.

Dinner by headlights. Over 800,000 people were left in the dark when the main substation serving San Juan exploded (Photo by Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP) (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)

Electricity at the eye of the hurricane

Videos and images of the explosion and fire became international news within hours, trending on Twitter and recording millions of hits on Facebook. In the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, hundreds of thousands of residents were left in the dark, many of them for close to a year. Blackouts, bankruptcy and corruption plagued the project since, resulting in LUMA Energy inheriting a grid that was fragile and in need of considerable reengineering. 

Eskom will be implementing a world first in data-centric grid monitoring and management

A new path forward for South Africa’s troubled power grid

Ten thousand kilometers across the South Atlantic in South Africa, the national utility Eskom has struggled with an ageing grid and shortfalls in power generation, presenting many similar challenges to those faced in Puerto Rico.

Eskom, however, is pioneering a project that takes an innovative approach to solving these many problems: data-centric monitoring and control.

In an agreement signed in May, Eskom will install 1,300 edge computing devices into its grid via local technology company CT LAB. The solution, called VECTO System, delivers an unprecedented level of visibility into the power grid, in near real time.

“The VECTO 3 is capable of monitoring over 9,000 electrical parameters across thousands of smart devices simultaneously,” said Willie van Wyk, CT LAB’s founder and the VECTO System’s lead designer, “By installing processing power into points across the power grid, VECTO System delivers key information to grid engineers and managers as it happens.”

Through the project, Eskom aims to transform its grid resilience and power continuity issues and return South Africa’s power grid to its once exceptional level of performance. Once completed, the grid will form the world’s only network capable of monitoring electricity in real time, as well as creating the world’s largest dataset of power performance information.

What LUMA needs is to take assertive action to prevent further disruptions to the island’s electricity delivery. That resilience comes through immediate alarm notifications getting to personnel the moment grid issues arise. By responding to the first signs of problems, major problems like the recent explosion can often be avoided.

Introducing VECTO 3 – real time notifications the moment problems arise

Developed in Cape Town, South Africa, VECTO System is an innovative grid management system developed to meet Africa’s steep energy challenges. It is a solution in two parts – a device installed across the network, and a software platform that visualises the data and provides real time notifications when network performance moves out of accepted safety thresholds.

Vecto 3 device

Each VECTO 3 is a linux-based edge computer, which process data locally as it enters the device, while simultaneously streaming it onwards a central data store. With a built-in GPS clock that is time synchronised to within ±100ns from absolute time, the full fleet of devices work together in perfect harmony, delivering the full picture of network performance.  

The VECTO 3 records and reports on a comprehensive set of RMS, phasor, harmonic, environmental & synchrophasor data, encompassing over 9,000 parameters.

VECTO System’s data visualisation platform — VECTO Grid OS —reports and interprets the data for the end user. Available for all smart devices, VECTO Grid OS will notify the appropriate team members at the moment anomalies occur on the network. If storm clouds suddenly begin to form over the city and solar supply drops rapidly, VECTO Grid OS will send emergency push notifications and emails in real time to the people who matter.  

Beyond emergency notifications, VECTO System’s unique capabilities can also:

  • Provide interaction and control down to the mini-substation level, providing engineers and operators with unprecedented visibility and remote management of the entire enterprise.
  • Predict, detect and prevent wildfires caused by high voltage power-lines.
  • Provide detailed information and insights through an ongoing forensic record, enabling long-term decision making and informed capital investments.

Keen to know more?

VECTO System is set to change the way the power grid is managed. If you’d like to see more of what the system is capable of, speak to us.

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