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Live your life smarter: miracles by 5G and AI on power grids

Huawei’s 5G and AI solutions are improving the operations of Shenzhen’s power grid.


As urbanisation progresses, the growing population keeps driving up the demand of energy. However, in many places the current power system was not built to facilitate diversified energy sources, particularly for the renewable supply.


Some administrations turn to different smart city initiatives and have introduced the “smart grid.” Primarily driven by artificial intelligence and 5G connectivity, it supports a fully automated power delivery network that monitors and controls the grid and consumption.


Shenzhen is among the early adopters of the smart grid solutions. The city’s power supply bureau works with Huawei in the initiatives, researching and developing applications for new technologies in the electric power industry. It also turns these innovations into reality, using AI as the brain of this future smart grid.


AI leads to an 80-fold improvement in efficiency


Still, Shenzhen has an issue to deal with; the real-time inspection over its decades-old power grid. Shenzhen Power Supply Bureau (SPSB) would have to find a solution.


"Our statistics show that the route inspected by a common line inspector in 30 years is equal to the length of the equator," says Wei Qianhu, Director of the Transmission Management Institute of the bureau, which is a subsidiary under state-owned China Southern Power Grid (CSG).


The SPSB now operates more than 3,900 km of overhead lines of 110 kV or above, and about 7,700 independent poles and towers. These lines and devices span Shenzhen and most run in mountainous areas. Manual inspection requires intensive manpower, often risky running in harsh outdoor operating conditions.


The bureau first used the latest technology to introduce an online surveillance system in 2013. This led to a huge improvement in results but there were still technical limitations within the system. Visual data were sent back to manual analysis, which didn’t make the process extremely efficient.


With its expertise of AI and other technology, Huawei developed an intelligent inspection system for the bureau. It runs with Huawei Atlas 200 AI acceleration module and uses an AI inference algorithm to analyse images and videos locally, quickly reporting alarms.


The Ascend-powered AI processor is deployed on all power transmission poles and towers and in drone online monitoring cameras. This system can efficiently identify five typical potential risks and seven major pole and tower defects.


This refreshed inspection mode primarily uses intelligent system analysis. When supplemented with manual judgment, it can shorten the original 20-day onsite inspection period to only two hours, an 80-fold improvement.


Intelligent Inspection Robots for Substations


Launched in 2002, the SPSB’s 500 kV Pengcheng Substation is the second 500 kV substation in Shenzhen and has four main transformers. The inspection work of the substation is often complex, and in summer its load can reach 80per cent of the maximum capacity at peak hours.


"In summer, the demand for electricity in Shenzhen surges, greatly intensifying our O&M work. Now, 5G and AI help us simplify our O&M work." says Pengcheng Substation Director Xie Zhiyi, who believes there is still a large space for 5G and AI in the intelligent management of power transformation


Before using 5G and AI, routine inspection was time-consuming, tough and usually done at night. For normal power supply, major power outages and overhauls had to be performed in the early morning. Failures in multiple substations took even more work for inspectors to travel back and forth.


Now, the 5G supported intelligent inspection robots do the task, thanks to the connectivity of high speed, low latency, and large bandwidth. The robots transmit power device images and infrared-obtained temperature data to the control centre in real time.


The intelligent analysis platform then uses edge computing and AI video recognition to collect data such as meter readings, device temperature, location, and switch status to detect faults and risks, and quickly generate alarms.


As such, unmanned and intelligent O&M help improve the routine inspection efficiency of substations almost threefold.


Fast Transmission on 5G for Differential Protection


Differential protection for the power distribution network can greatly reduce the area affected by power grid faults and eliminate faults at the earliest possible point, achieving ’zero perception’ of power outages.


This mechanism classifies each electrical device requiring protection as a connection node. Normally, each device’s electric input and output currents should be the same. Otherwise, the device is considered faulty. The automatic controller then cuts off the power supply of the faulty device as soon as possible to protect other devices from being affected and avoid chain reactions resulting in power failure.


To implement differential protection, the automatic controller needs to compare the current at both ends of a circuit. The current runs at the speed of light, which means that the delay requirement is high for differential protection.


The conventional 4G connection is considered slow, so optical fibres must be used to implement differential protection in the 4G era. Its large-scale deployment, however, is time-consuming, costly and prone to external damages.


The solution is 5G, thanks to its low latency of less than 15 milliseconds with exceptional speed and bandwidth.


Innovation Lights Up Numerous Households


CSG supplies power to an area of over one million square kilometres, covering a population of more than 254 million. The smart grid works particularly well in various scenarios, such as new energy grid connections, flexible large grid interconnection, multi-user supply-demand balancing, and interaction between information technologies and power systems.


The innovative application of new technologies like 5G and AI are helping the electric power industry optimize the provision of power, intelligently lighting up thousands of households.


This is among the visionary solutions discussed in the fifth HUAWEI CONNECT, which took place from 23 to 26 September in Shanghai. Industrial elites and tech experts, along with clients and partners, shared their views on how different industries can go through the inevitable digital transformation with the support of Huawei.


For more information, please visit here.

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