Manufacturer: Several utilities plan to test transmission line security monitors

Football-sized transmission line security monitors (TLSM), developed and licensed by Idaho National Laboratories met with an enthusiastic reception when they were debuted before industry engineers at a Florida trade show the week of May 7, according to the company that is building and marketing the devices.

“When can I get some? How can I get a pilot project started? How quickly can we do this?” were among the most frequently asked questions, Phil Spillane, Lindsey Manufacturing Company’s vice president of marketing and sales, told TransmissionHub on May 15.

The devices, which were developed out of concern for the security of the nation’s often-remote high voltage power lines post-9/11, incorporate features that monitor security as well as line performance.

“Several major transmission utilities” in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and the southeast will launch pilot projects within the next several weeks, Spillane said.

”From now until September, we’re in pilot [projects] and we’re assuming all these pilots will be favorable,” Spillane said. “In September, we will be shipping the units in quantity.”

Calls to utilities seeking further information were not returned by press time.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Idaho National Laboratories (INL) was charged with identifying a way to protect high-voltage transmission lines from acts of sabotage.

The first TLSMs were designed to monitor factors that, history had shown, were the greatest indicators of security risk to power structures.

With one TLSM on each tower, the devices would use an infrared sensor to monitor the base of the tower for warm-body motion. Simultaneously, the TLSMs would monitor for abnormal vibrations that are not due to natural occurrences.

The experiences of utilities overseas had shown that abnormal vibrations could be due to perpetrators trying to remove bolts at the base of the tower, according to John Svoboda, lead investigator with INL on the TLSM program.

A simple analysis of the information could indicate whether events were innocuous – an isolated incident of an animal or a hiker passing by a single tower, for example – or bore further investigation.

“If you get both alarms – the movement of a warm body and abnormal vibration – and if those events move to adjacent towers, then you’d … likely alert local authorities or get someone out there immediately to figure out whether someone has been tampering with the tower,” Svoboda said.

Utilities that evaluated the early devices wanted the added value of operational information for the transmission lines on which they would be mounted, so INL joined forces with Lindsey Manufacturing, a 65-year-old Azuza, Calif., company that manufactures high-voltage transmission equipment, sensors and hardware.

“We added ways to measure line sag, conductor temperature, tilt and angle of the conductors, and measurement of the distance to [anything beneath the line],” Svoboda said. “We added several different kinds of sensors that would allow the operators to get added value from installing the security monitors on their transmission lines.”

In addition, features in the TLSM will enable utilities to maximize the capacity of lines by utilizing forecasts to calculate each line’s dynamic capacity. “By gathering weather history from a location of an installed TLSM, line current history, and exact conductor height history, we can forecast 24 hours in advance how much additional transmission line capacity is available without violating clearance regulation,” Spillane said.

The devices are simple to deploy. “They’re live-line installable with hotstick, or by a live-line crew,” Spillane said. They can also be installed by direct connect when the power is down, thus giving utilities a great deal of flexibility in deciding when, where and how to install the TLSMs.

The devices could pay for themselves many times over “by protecting the power lines themselves but more to the point, the millions of dollars of energy that flow through them every day,” Spillane said.