Electrical Distribution System Reviews
A typical system review includes an analysis of existing conditions (i.e., a physical checkup) of an electrical system. Capacity, loading, and the condition of each major component of the distribution system are examined. The review will include bulk power supply, substation equipment, and three-phase distribution feeders. Operation and construction concerns are discussed. The review will outline known system deficiencies and may require follow-up with one or all of the following items.
In order to plan for additional capacity requirements of a distribution system, an estimate of electrical loads is created and projected over a ten-year period. Municipal planning, input by utility personnel, and comparisons with similar electrical systems are used to predict future loads, establish a benchmark for future growth, and determine when action will be required.
Reliable distribution system planning allows for any one component of a system to be removed from service at a time of peak load. The ability to transfer loads under each contingency is examined to identify constraints and to prioritize construction recommendations. A switching procedure can be prepared for utility personnel to use when switching equipment in and out of service for scheduled maintenance.
Long Range Plans
A long range plan begins with the end result in mind. A ten-year plan will help to confidently plan for the next two years. Load forecasting, locations of potential growth, the age and condition of equipment, and capacity limitations identified in the contingency planning are used to identify what and when future construction is anticipated. With the goal of keeping rates competitive, decisions regarding the maintenance, replacement, and addition of equipment items are more easily scrutinized. Long range plans are periodically reviewed during the ten-year period and activity is documented for potential updating of the plan.
Short Range Work Plans and Budgets
Recommended construction is prioritized by highest impact, greatest need, and affordability. A two- to three–year construction budget and cash flow analysis will help determine borrowing or rate impacts. Supporting documentation can be used to submit applications, when regulatory approval is required, and to begin the design phase when project approval is accomplished.
Feasibility studies answer the “can I” or “what if” questions. They usually consider proposed additions of large loads or generation, and employ engineering analysis and cost estimating to evaluate power quality and affordability.
Best Value Plan Analysis
There is often more than one good way to accomplish the same thing. When considering potential solutions, alternate plans may be identified and outlined (with a cost estimate of each plan) to meet the immediate and future needs of a system. Some plans may involve a combination of transmission and distribution construction, which will require planning and collaboration with other utilities. The cost/benefit ratio of each plan is considered and compared. Based on estimated cost and value received, a recommended best value plan will be selected, affected parties will reach a consensus, and the recommended plan will be accepted or revised accordingly.
An equipment maintenance plan will include documentation of the major equipment and controls on a distribution system, and instruction and maintenance manuals for each item. A recommended maintenance schedule will outline the testing and routine maintenance work that should periodically be performed to extend the life and performance of your electrical system.