Like most of the kids who visit their grandparents during vacations, I too had a lot of trips to Lucknow and Benaras as a kid. However, as life progressed, the trips became shorter and infrequent. I always used to look forward to those trips, because every time I was there, my grandfather had something unique to show. He had a radio that was as big as a microwave oven and had coils that would turn red when used. Fast forward today we have Internet radio.
Things have become smaller and faster than ever. You simply turn on the switch and voila you have instant electricity. I, however, always wondered how it reaches your home. There has been innovation happening everywhere, so where is the innovation in power transmission? In this post I’ll talk about innovation in power transmission that I witnessed at the Elecrama 2020 expo in Greater Noida.
Innovation in Power Transmission – Why now?
I always stress on the fact that the market dynamics are changing rapidly; thanks to the changing customer needs along with the evolution of technology. And that’s why if you don’t innovate, you won’t survive longer. And this is true to both individuals and organisations. When it comes to innovation in power transmission, there’s a lot of money involved; as the projects are huge in size.
So, it’s possible to upgrade what we have and future proof it instead of building new things. Further, upgrading anything doesn’t happen in silos. The entire system needs to be upgraded to get the best results. For example, if we are upgrading the transmission wires to handle high voltage current, the towers too would need to be upgraded to support it.
Renewables globally are getting integrated at an unprecedented pace. They have the potential to provide any region with clean energy at a low cost. They have exploded with an exponential growth into the grid. Large scale deployment of renewable energy requires additional transmission. So, if we want to sustain that pace, transmission lines need to be developed, in order to be able to evacuate the power generated through renewables. During my visit to Elecrama, I realized the scale at which such innovation in the power transmission sector is happening.
List of Innovation in Power Transmission
The Elecrama 2020 exhibition was spread across 15 halls with exhibitors from different countries. Even the cold weather didn’t deter the visitors and the organizers from reaching the expo mart in Greater Noida. I had been here earlier for the Auto Expo. Since I had less time on hand, I couldn’t go to every hall/stall and witness the innovation in power transmission. Based on my visit, here’s a list of innovation in power transmission.
- Uninterrupted power supply during maintenance of high voltage wires: For most of us now, even a few seconds delay in receiving the OTP makes us frustrated. Imagine when there’s no power for a while? That’s where I came across this video at the Sterlite Power stall where they showed how they are able to perform the maintenance of high voltage wires without turning off the power supply! The guy doing this is a true Khatro ka Khiladi. This is their novel Live Line Reconductoring technology where they can perform maintenance without shutting down the power supply.
- IoT in Power Transmission: Being an innovation evangelist that I am, I’ve seen some really amazing implementations of Internet of Things. However, I was not aware of how IoT in power transmission works. That’s when folks from Sterlite Power talked about their Dynamic Line Rating. This geyser like device sits on the transmission poles and gives real time feedback to the central team about the status of the load on that line.
- Another thing that was awe inspiring was the stringing activity they did in Jammu & Kashmir using Helicrane. They were able to lay more than 1000 kms of transmission lines in the tough terrain and rough weather with the help of a helicrane. And this feat was even captured by NatGeo as a part of their MegaStructures show.
What is Innovation at the cost of the Environment?
Even as we speak, the need for innovation in power transmission is increasing at a rapid pace thanks to the rapid increase in the power demands across the globe. Most of the power infrastructure we see around are pretty old and are running at max capacity. To step up, a lot of this old infrastructure needs to be revamped. However, that requires a lot of time and at the cost of disturbance to the environment and ecology of a place. Sterlite Power believes that any list of innovation in power transmission doesn’t hold good if they aren’t sustainable.
With sustainability as one of their core values, Sterlite Power has taken up several sustainable initiatives during all their projects. One of the most notable ones included the tree translocation wherein they relocated mature trees within 500 mts to maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
Their another innovation Transanalyst, a Google Map-like application used for surveying the region during transmission path planning stage, helps them identify the right spot for relocation. They have employed a lot of monopoles that have a smaller footprint than the traditional transmission towers to reduce damage to the nearby environment.
Innovation is the need of the hour
I was fortunate to have met the CEO of Sterlite Power’s Solutions Business, Mr. Manish Agarwal too. The meet was a short one, but we had a really insightful discussion. Mr. Manish pointed out that most of the infrastructure we have is quite old. And replacing them comes at a huge cost. And for that reason, he has a dedicated innovation cell now. He spoke about the various industry and academia associations that they have for innovation in power transmission.
Since he too is from a Computer Technology background, I asked him about the possible use of Blockchain in the power sector. He said that it may be the case in future. Currently there are platforms by CII & other forums where all the stakeholders can contribute in near real time. He concluded by saying that their vision is to ‘Empower Humanity’ and ‘Transform the Power Sector’.
Innovating Towards a ‘POWER’fully Interconnected World
Sometimes a solution to a grave problem lies right in front of our eyes; but we ignore and look past it. This realization dawned on me recently when I came across an insightful article in Fortune by Pratik Agarwal – Managing Director of Sterlite Power. As per the article, nearly 2 billion people in the world still have access to no or partial electricity; this majorly being a transmission issue. The article very aptly talks about how this global issue can be addressed by the universal source of energy – the Sun.
An inter-continental power grid, connecting power grids through undersea cables will open a unique path for trading power. In simpler terms, the households in one part of the world where sun has already set will be able to draw electricity from the solar parks of another country, where sun is still shining bright. This innovative concept will not only solve the problem of reliability of power, this will also take us a step ahead in the war against Global Warming.
This was my first interaction with the Power industry and trust me, I learnt so much about it. The transmission wires that go along the highway, I know what’s the trouble in having them there. Though there were many things that I couldn’t understand, again for me it was baby steps in the right direction. I’ve seen the innovation in power transmission and how they are changing the way we live. Did you know about the innovations in the power sector? Mention them in the comments below or tweet to me at @Atulmaharaj or DM me on Instagram.