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Tech Aims to Predict Problems on Power Lines Before Disaster


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Pacific Gas and Electric workers bury utlility lines in Paradise, CA.

Utilities are trying out a new diagnostic tool that can identify problems with power lines before they become catastrophic.

Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

A diagnostic tool designed by Texas A&M University's B. Don Russell to detect power line problems is being used by utilities to address those problems before they become disasters.

At least one utility in Texas is using the Distribution Fault Anticipation tool, and the technology is also being tested by two utilities in California, as well as utilities in Australia and New Zealand.

The tool detects variations in electrical currents caused by deteriorating conditions or equipment and notifies utility operators to send a crew to fix the problems.

Said Russell, “If we can find things when they start to fail, if we can find things that are in the process of degrading before a catastrophic event occurs, such as a downed line that might electrocute someone or a fire starting or even an outage for their customers, that's kind of the Holy Grail."

From Associated Press
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