Jim Bradley has lived in Charlotte for 30 years, and he never experienced as many power outages as he did in early 2016. Frustrated, he contacted a friend who worked at Duke Energy.
His question made it to Sasha Weintraub, senior vice president of customer solutions, and inspired a new system that would help reduce outages for all customers.
Weintraub routed the question to Norv Clontz, who was then director of grid analytics, and Clontz brought in Quinn Davis, a manager in the power quality and reliability engineering department. With a few months of research and collaboration, the pair found the reason for Bradley’s outage – overgrown vegetation – and created the System Health Tool to help others, too.
“It’s my job to prevent outages,” Davis said. “It’s all about asking, ‘What’s the best use of our next dollar to help the customer?’”
The new system identifies small pockets of poor performance and determines where grid investments are most needed. Before the System Health Tool, engineers had to look at performance indicators separately – vegetation management, infrastructure, reliability and customer satisfaction data – which didn’t present a clear picture of what areas needed improvements based on customer experience. The tool combines all of this data and shows sections of a map as red, orange and yellow based on priority.
Clontz and Davis won a James B. Duke Award, the company’s highest honor, for their innovative solution to a customer’s concern. The software has been particularly useful in research for our Power/Forward grid modernization initiative. This will include a $5 billion investment to reduce outages by burying lines and installing protective equipment in North Carolina’s most susceptible areas.