Research & Development

De Angeli Prodotti presents the future of conductors: Smart Conductor

calendar_today Monday 12 September 2022

De Angeli Prodotti presented the conductor of the future at the CIGRE in Paris: the Smart Conductors are coming!

As usual, De Angeli Prodotti participated in the CIGRE fair in Paris, the main European fair in the field of conductors for overhead power lines. Here, our company has always presented highly innovative and ambitious products, but this time it has left everyone amazed. The future of overhead power lines is the Smart Conductor.

What is a Smart Conductor?

The smart conductor is a conductor for overhead power lines to which a wire is replaced with a sensitive wire, equipped with optical fiber.

What is an optical fiber?

Optical fibre how is it made

Optical fibers are filaments of glassy or polymeric materials, made in such a way as to be able to conduct light inside them. In other words, they allow an electromagnetic field of sufficiently high frequency to be conveyed and guided inside them (generally in the vicinity of the infrared) with extremely limited losses. A rigorous study of the physics of optical fibers requires concepts of quantum optics. Using a comparison of classical optics, in optical fibers a phenomenon of total internal reflection occurs, whereby the discontinuity of the refractive index between the materials of the core (higher refractive index) and of the mantle (lower refractive index) traps the radiation luminous as long as this maintains a fairly grazing angle, in practice until the fiber makes too sharp bends.

Why integrate an optical fiber inside a high voltage conductor?

The optical fiber inside the Smart Conductor has the purpose, appropriately interrogated by means of advanced equipment, to provide continuous and real-time information regarding the operating conditions of the line throughout the operating life. In particular, it is possible to monitor:

  1. Breakages or failures
  2. Temperatures
  3. Deformations
  4. Vibration and acoustic analysis (future developments)

What are the informations we can obtain with a Smart Conductor?

Smart Conductor trasmissione informazioni real time attraverso fibra ottica

Temperature monitoring

Temperature monitoring is of fundamental importance since, in this way, very precautionary safety limits would not be necessary as occurs for traditional conductors, thus increasing their capacity to transport with the same characteristics of the conductor. This will play in the electrical system an ever greater importance given the increase in electricity from non-priority dispatching sources accumulable like renewable sources.

Many of the renewable sources do not have storage elements, therefore, the energy produced and not transportable is lost. The use of optical fibers therefore allows to significantly reduce this waste with obvious advantages from an economic and environmental point of view. Therefore, this technology is a further step forward towards an increasing use of energy from renewable sources to the detriment of fossil ones. The continuous monitoring of the temperature and therefore, as explained above, the optimization of the conductor itself would allow a significant increase in the current capacity with the same conductor without the need to intervene with infrastructural works, very expensive from the point of view of economic resources and thunderstorms and harmful from an environmental point of view.

Evaluation of deformations

The evaluation of deformations during all operating conditions, on the other hand, is fundamental in terms of safety. By analyzing this behavior it is possible to constantly analyze aspects such as ground clearance (height of the conductor with respect to the ground) and the arrow. In particular, the first aspect is regulated for safety reasons and therefore, even in completely exceptional situations, it is possible to evaluate any risk situations in advance.

Position of possible breaks on the line

The optical fibers, moreover, allow to detect in a very precise way the position of possible breaks facilitating maintenance operations in the event of this type of damage. It is important to point out that the constant monitoring of the line allows to carry out targeted and preventive maintenance by increasing considerably the safety of the plant and operators and clearly reducing costs.

Which are the advantages of Smart Conductors?

Thanks to real time informations listed above, the targeted and preventive maintenance of the power supply network allows to reduce, if not eliminate the possible disservices due to this type of activity. As previously mentioned, this type of conductor is fully compatible with the infrastructures existing.

This allows to minimize the upgrade costs as no works are required infrastructural (75% of the total cost of the plant saved). Avoiding the creation of new infrastructures also makes it possible to significantly reduce the environmental and landscape impact as well as the consumption of soil as a non-renewable resource.

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