Hurricane Sandy submerged some of Atlantic City Electric’s transformers and customer’s meter sockets in saltwater, forcing the company to shut off service to 220,000 of its 547,000 consumers. Because of the risk of a house fire to these homes, the company’s buried distribution (BD) team was tasked with de-energizing the services as quickly and safely as possible.
Restoring power to the flood-damaged homes, however, wasn’t an easy feat. Some customers had up to 6 ft of water in their homes and their meter sockets were underwater. Local inspectors would identify which homes could and could not receive service. Before the transformers could be energized, the BD technicians would have to identify each service that could not be energized and disconnect them from the transformers. With transformers being submerged, and most cable identifying tags faded, it made it extremely challenging and time-consuming for the BD workers to tell which service wires went to which house.
Streamlining Cable Identification
During the restoration process, Atlantic City Electric wanted to restore power as quickly as possible to the homes not damaged by floodwater, but in doing this, the utility didn’t want to energize those homes that had damaged and unsafe electrical equipment.
Since the cable identification process was taking too much time to do it manually, Atlantic City Electric needed to find a tool that could help the technicians improve productivity. The company turned to Derrick Smith from Megger, who had introduced a cable identifier at a meeting about another piece of test equipment. The cable identifier allowed technicians to identify different underground services that were not marked but were still energized. They had just the opposite effect with the services being de-energized.
Atlantic City Electric asked Smith if the tool would help them to safely identify cables to the homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and he loaned one of the tools to them to try out in the field. Megger demonstrated the handheld unit out in the field with four BD technicians, and they were able to learn how to use the tool quickly. They were then able to identify and disconnect services much more quickly, and they appreciated the tool because it made their jobs much easier.
To use the unit, the technician clipped the descending unit on the line side of the meter socket. Next, the user clipped the other end on the individual wires coming out of the transformer. The sending unit at the meter socket then transmitted a signal to the receiving unit on the other side. If the receiving unit was on the wire that had the signal going through it, it would cause the LED lights to illuminate. If they were on the wrong wire, then the technician wouldn’t get a visual signal.
Going Beyond Storm Restoration
Going forward, the technicians can use the tool for a variety of different uses. For example, if they have a transformer with multiple services and need to disconnect one of the services without de-energizing the entire transformer, they could plug the cable identifier unit into an outside receptacle at the home to determine which service to de-energize.
So far, the company has bought a unit for each district, and by investing in the tool, the company will be prepared the next time a hurricane or severe storm hits New Jersey. That way, even if the information has worn off the cable identification tags, the technicians will be able to rapidly de-energize power to the customers and keep them out of harm’s way.
Timothy Hadorn (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a distribution supervisor with Atlantic City Electric in West Creek, New Jersey. In his position, he works with another supervisor to oversee 19 linemen. The company serves a 2,700-sq-mile area comprising eight counties in southern New Jersey and is considered one of the largest energy delivery services in New Jersey.