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AltaLink smashes through reliability records with a flawless first month of the year

It’s only been one month into the year, and AltaLinkers have already broken a record: one straight, unbroken month of perfect reliability. There’s only one thing AltaLink likes more than keeping the lights on – and it’s keeping the lights on all the time.

In the 31 days of January 2018, AltaLink’s transmission system was free from customer load interruptions. That means no unforeseen outages and no customer loads lost – not a single incident impacted our reliability scores.

This is a new record for AltaLink – not once in the 192 months of AltaLink’s existence has there been a “perfect” month for our reliability metrics. According to the Alberta Electric System Operator, this was also during a month of record-level demand for electricity in Alberta at 11,697 megawatts. To maintain perfect reliability scores during a time of growing electrical demand is truly incredible.

“This achievement is due to a number of different pieces falling into place,” said Brian Kelly, manager of the AltaLink Control Centre (ACC). “For sure, there wasn’t a lot of extreme weather in January, so that’s definitely a factor. But more so, we’ve been working on improving the processes and coordination of field teams and ACC operators. For example last January, some human error and miscommunication led to a substation tripping off. Since that time we’ve focused on improving our protocols, and now our teams are better synchronized.”

Proactive maintenance and monitoring of electrical assets also played a part in keeping the lights on in January. Field teams were out scanning assets with infrared cameras looking for signs of failure when they spotted an issue with a transformer at the Leismer Substation near Conklin. This failing equipment could have led to an unplanned outage if work had not been done right away. Proactively replacing this transformer meant that reliable power could continue to flow uninterrupted.

“Winter preparation played a key role in breaking this reliability record: topping up oil levels, site inspections and addressing key risk items ensured that we minimized the number of surprises that could have occurred during the month,” said Mike Bartel, VP, asset management.

Contrary to what you might think in January, the grid wasn’t a quiet place during the month. A large volume of work was planned and completed for Alberta’s transmission system. This work required seamless coordination between field and system operator teams in a series of planned outages that saw over 400 pieces of work completed.

“In no other January to date had so much work been planned for the grid,” said Rick Spyker, director of system operations. “This work involved outages and activities that puts the system at risk from a reliability perspective, so one could say the reliability results reflect us doing a great job coordinating and executing this work.”

In conclusion, coordination, preparedness and relatively calm weather led to this record-setting performance for AltaLink and its customers.

“We have no record in our system of zero momentary and zero sustained load interruptions,” mentioned Ehsan Abbasi, reliability engineer. “And our data goes back to 1984. A typical January has 19 sustained interruptions, and January 2017 had 27 sustained interruptions. So, to have zero in 2018 really is an incredible achievement.”

AltaLink plays a key part in keeping the lights on in our province and January has been an amazing start to the year by setting this new reliability milestone.