Long distance detection of copper cable thefts

December 28, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
Single device monitors up to 500 km of high voltage lines
A sensor from Siemens can detect faults in power lines precisely and even the theft of unpowered copper cabling up to 500km away

Siemens Smart Infrastructure has launched a condition monitoring system for high voltage AC and DC transmission lines that can detect the theft of unpowered copper cables.

The PowerLink CM is designed to precisely locate faults in the transmission grid and continuously track line conditions and one device is sufficient to monitor line lengths of up to 500 km.

Faults as well as line condition can be detected in powered, unpowered or grounded lines. Fault reports are received by the affected substation and are forwarded from there to the control room. For continuous line monitoring, the device can be connected to MindSphere, the open cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) platform from Siemens, which facilitates transparent processing of all line data in the cloud. This allows grid operators to analyze status reports and optimize maintenance activities.

“With the new PowerLink CM solution, transmission grid operators can detect and locate possible line problems before causing major transmission network issues,” said Robert Klaffus, CEO Digital Grid at Siemens Smart Infrastructure. “PowerLink CM supports predictive operations management. Transmission grid operators can better manage their assets, avoid blackouts, and guarantee a reliable supply of electricity.”

Existing fault localization solutions for power lines use detectors based on traveling wave technology. For condition monitoring, they are often supplemented with specialized sensors installed along the line supported by regular visual inspections via drones or helicopters. This approach is very costly, however, and not suitable for use on the unpowered or grounded lines typically found in the high voltage DC transmission environment or for maintaining existing or building new power lines.

The PowerLink CM system instead provides real-time monitoring of every type of transmission power line by continuously measuring line profile. Location information is available at the time of the event, but can also be determined after the fact. Copper theft, common in some countries, can be detected even in unpowered lines. 

Next: Detecting sporadic faults in high voltage copper lines 

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