Product Development: Diagnostics for Testing Power Circuit Breakers
In 1995, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, www.epri.com) wanted to assess the feasibility of a new product that electric utilities could use for on-line testing and diagnosis of mechanical faults in transmission class power circuit breakers at electrical substations.
Richard Martin interviewed utility power substation managers, electrical foremen, electrical engineers within the utilities tasked with tracking new technologies, and substation operations managers at both the HQ and district levels for major utilities.
Respondents worked for Bonneville Power, Philadelphia Electric, the Birmingham Division of Alabama Power, Illinois Power, Indianapolis Power & Light, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Results: Research found that on-line diagnostics of mechanical faults in power circuit breakers wasn’t enough to achieve a break-through product. The marketplace also needed to detect electrical resistance and insulation faults in the circuit breakers, as well as a method to detect oil levels in the breakers. Otherwise, they would still need to send maintenance crews to the power circuit breakers for periodic check-ups, so it made no sense to spend money for an on-line diagnostic package that did only one thing.
Bottom-line: the utility industry wanted ALL aspects of power circuit breaker performance rolled into one on-line package, not just the mechanical fault diagnostics. However.....Martin Technical Research discovered an opportunity for a new product offering, as the marketplace expressed the need for a diagnostic tool to find mechanical faults in transformer load tap changers.
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