A common goal of every electric utility includes the delivery of safe, reliable electric service to the communities served. Unplanned outages can damage a utility’s reputation and undermine customer confidence in the provision of a reliable source of electric service.
The average cost to utility companies for recovering from animal-related outages is between $15 million and $18 million annually. This statistic that comes to us from Eaton Industries’ “Blackout Tracker, United States Annual Report 2014,” published in 2015. Up to 20 percent of all power outages in the US are attributable to bird and animal caused outages, translating to an estimated $18 billion to $30 billion dollars of lost economy yearly in the US. Protecting electrical systems equipment has both economic and environmental benefits. From a business standpoint, preventing unscheduled outages is highly cost effective. From an environmental perspective, a covered system protects both endangered and non-endangered wildlife alike.
Animal-caused Outages Make the News
Despite the fun news reporters have with creative eye-catching headlines, animal-caused outages wreak havoc. The top three industries severely hindered by downtime are data centers, financial institutions and manufacturing industries, respectively.
Widely regarded as the backbone of operations for numerous organizations across a wide spectrum of industries, data centers are mission critical. As a result, the facilities take some of the deadliest hits when it comes to downtime—from the irrecoverable loss of stored records to disruption of daily transactions. A recent Ponemon Institute study of 41 US data centers placed the price tag at more than $11,000 per minute for enterprises whose data center is core to the business, such as e-commerce companies.
There’s nothing like a blackout to bring production lines in the manufacturing industry to a grinding halt. From losses of materials to machinery breakdown to loss of production time, downtime can take a significant toll on manufacturing processes, even causing supply chains to completely collapse.
Drawing on his 25 years of experience in the field as a power lineman, Marty Niles started Religuard’s parent company, Cantega Technologies, in 2001. Niles witnessed animal contact over the years and saw what linemen liked and disliked, and created a product that installs quickly and doesn’t allow gaps that permit animal intrusion.
When asked about his vision, Niles said, “I saw the damage and disruption that bird and animal-caused outages caused and made it my mission to develop new products to protect utilities from animal-caused outages. Our success as a company has been built on the acceptance of our Greenjacket precise-fit cover-up for use in substations and power plants to protect against bird and animal-caused power outages. Greenjacket is the only cover-up that meets all criteria for IEEE 1656 parameters. Reliaguard extends the cover-up protection to the powerline.”
Reliaguard is staffed with a highly experienced multi-disciplinary management team and consulting team and includes power linemen, wildlife experts, polymer chemists, tool-and-die experts and polymer fabricators.
Responding to Utility Customer Needs for High Volume Applications
In response to utility customer requests for a better class of volume cover-up, and building on their superior design of animal and bird guards to prevent animal-caused outages, Reliaguard developers spent the better part of 2015 working to develop a new product line to meet this need.
Historically, mass produced cover-ups left gaps, nesting cavities and points of contact risk still exposed, and many of Cantega’s customers continued to have outages where mass produced cover-up had been applied. Reliaguard was developed to improve the quality of cover-up available, as requested by customers.
Reliaguard announced and unveiled the manufacture of GreyEEL Conductor Cover at the 2015 ICUEE Show in Louisville, Kentucky. Conductor cover is an important addition when installing wildlife guards because bird wingspan and animal reach from ground-to-phase or phase-to-phase contact must be factored into coverage recommendations.
In addition to providing a complete guard and conductor cover solution, the Reliaguard linemen have developed a tool for the application of GreyEEL Conductor Cover—The EEL Slider. This tool helps linemen apply conductor cover, which previously has been difficult to apply when conducting rubber glove work. The tool is designed to fit with rubber gloves or leather gloves and easily and quickly slides conductor cover into place.
A 2016 Launch of Reliaguard Parts
Reliaguard begins 2016 with the launch of its powerline wildlife covers at DistribuTECH in Orlando, Florida. Manufactured in California and produced on a volume basis, they are priced affordably for large volume purchases. Reliaguard parts are made of Reliatanium, a proprietary material. Individual parts are manufactured using injection mold and thermoform manufacturing processes, and are available for:
• Pin insulators,
• Lightning arrestors,
• Underground terminations, and
Reliaguard wildlife cover-up for powerlines aims to meet IEEE 1656-2010 test parameters. Important IEEE 1656-2010 test properties include a V-0 FR rating, Wet Withstand and dielectric performance, among others. When a flashover or contact occurs, cover-up that doesn’t support combustion is important for limiting damage to critical equipment and infrastructure. Reliaguard parts are self-extinguishing and will not spread fires through dripping, an important factor in dryer states such as California. Reliaguard’s Reliatanium material used in its parts production has achieved a V-0 flammability rating, the highest flammability rating, which means it does not support combustion. In addition, the cover-ups offer product retention—they stay on the equipment, offering consistent protection and won’t split in extreme cold or heat.
Reliaguard’s initial rollout of parts is based on customer requests for better solutions for powerline protection. As customers identify additional cover-types that have volume applications, Reliaguard will add to its part inventory.
About the authors:
Marty Niles and Keith Yeats are linemen and founders of Reliaguard. Niles and Yeats bring a combined 60 years of field and training experience working with North American utilities. To date, they have had five patents awarded with an additional 22 patents pending, all relating to reliability solutions in the utility sector. Niles and Yeats work closely with customers and the Reliaguard design team to ensure customer considerations are contributing to Reliaguard’s powerline protection.