Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative

Using handheld scanners, Davey Resource Group crews inspected Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s feeder lines to help prioritize maintenance and prevent outages.

The Challenge

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) is responsible for providing power to 166,000 members in Charles County, St. Mary’s County, southern Prince George’s County, and most of Calvert County, Maryland. As one of the largest cooperatives in the United States, SMECO members count on the utility to provide reliable electricity to the area.

To uphold their reputation of strong reliability, SMECO’s Engineering Support Services team started a pilot inspection program at the beginning of August 2020 to detect pieces of equipment that can fail or cause outages before they happen.

The Solution

For the pilot project, SMECO chose to survey feeders that showed the most equipment-caused outages over the past year on their System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI). The co-op partnered with Davey Resource Group, Inc. (DRG) to survey 157 miles of three-phase feeder lines with handheld scanners that measure heat and radio-frequency interface. Abnormal levels of heat or interference are both early warning signs that line equipment may fail soon despite there being no visual signs of equipment damage.

DRG crews took general measurements using the handheld scanners while driving along with roadside rights of way, then stood underneath lines to pinpoint which components needed to be addressed.

Once they completed the inspection, DRG matched its findings to the number of SMECO members drawing service from each line, the SAIDI figures, and SMECO’s Customer Average Interruption Duration Index (CAIDI) figures to help prioritize maintenance.

The Results

The pilot took about 8 weeks to complete and ended in mid-September 2020. DRG gave SMECO a priority list for replacing the equipment identified as being likely to fail. Each item on DRG’s list included how many outages the work would prevent. This work helped SMECO to proactively schedule the repairs and plan for line replacements in its budget.

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