Automatic power restoration a first for New Zealand 

27 July 2023 at 2:12 pm

Orion’s recently enabled Automatic Power Restoration System (APRS) marks a significant milestone for network operations within the electricity industry in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

The system automatically determines the location of a high-voltage network fault, completes a power-flow study, and then undertakes the required switching to restore supply to as many customers as possible - all without human intervention.  

“This means our customers will have their power restored much faster than with traditional methods, giving them a much better experience,” says Orion Operations Technology Lead Dayle McDrury. 

“After nine months of configuration, testing and training we are confident the algorithm operates as expected, and can restore supply to many customers in the affected area in less than one minute.”  

The technology has already been proven. Following a fault on the Wainui Main Road line circuit breaker shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, the APRS restored 213 customers in less than 22 seconds.

“Given the weather conditions over the weekend it was unsafe for our operators to restore power until first light that morning, but the automation meant that only 77 customers were left without power overnight, instead of 290,” says Orion Control Centre Manager Brett McClelland. 

Because the system restored power almost instantaneously most households wouldn’t even have been aware they had lost power. The restoration of most customers leaves our Controller and the team able to focus on the actual fault and the remaining customers without power.”  

Work to automate the system began back in 2014 when Orion started identifying priority township areas for restoration, and subsequently replacing its manual High Voltage switches with remotely controllable switches that could be operated from the control centre. APRS is now active on around 200 circuits, covering about 42% of the network’s customer base.  

“A self-healing network is the future of network operations, and we understand we are the first distributor in the country to use such technology at network scale. We follow in the footsteps of UKPN in London and Citipower Powercor in Melbourne using this GE product, and in a few years, I expect we will find it is commonplace among many larger distributors,” says Dayle.  

From now on, every additional item of switchable equipment that Orion upgrades with remote control will further enhance the network’s fault-finding and restoration capability using APRS. 

“This is an industry leading, cutting-edge solution making a tangible difference to the lives of our customers from now, and that’s something we’re really proud of.”

Operations Technology Lead, Dayle McDrury and Control Centre Manager, Brett McClelland.