How Optical Ground Wires are Building a Resilient Indian Power System

The need of the hour is to roll out optical fibre networks across the length and breadth of the country to protect the power infrastructure while connecting every nook and corner of the country via telecommunications.

January 18, 2023. By News Bureau

The world is undergoing a technological revolution and there is no sector that is left untouched by the digital revolution. Even the power sector which has traditionally been asset-focused and utility-driven will need to focus on meeting the needs of demanding customers. Future-ready power distribution companies will need to revamp themselves to manage customer needs and build a resilient power system. Optical Ground Wires are playing an important role in this transition to the future.

India has a power transmission and distribution network of around 109,00,000 circuit kilometres that covers the length and breadth of the country. According to a plan of the government’s power ministry, an additional 27000 circuit kilometres of inter-state power transmission networks is expected to be laid by 2024 of which 6500 circuit kilometres have already been completed. The successful execution of this mega plan requires the building of transmission lines that can evacuate 180GW of generation capacity that can help the nation reach its national goal of 500GW of renewable energy by 2030.

Optical Fibre Composite Ground Wires provide fast networks with effective power distribution grids along with the additional benefits of a telecom carrier or service provider. It is a superior quality cable that can replace traditional conductors and protect them from lightning while offering a route for telecommunications for internal and external use. OPGW help in protecting the sensitive fibres inside the cable. Its main features include excellent quality of transmission, tensile strength, reliability, communication and adaptability for optical cable communication systems.

Aluminium-clad steel wires are the protective covering of OPGW because they are corrosion-resistant making them perfect for use in industrial and marine conditions. ACS wires are lighter than aluminized steel but have the same tensile strength as high-strength steel. It offers better conductivity when compared to galvanised steel and aluminium when used separately. This explains why aluminium-clad steel wires are the preferred choice for OPGW in coastal areas or areas with dense fog or high pollution.

OPGW is the alternative to the normal earth wire to protect the power transmission grid from lightning strikes and acts as a conductor to transmit fault currents to the ground. It also works for real-time surveillance and security of the transmission system over which it is laid. It carries out the dual functions of earthing and communication. Basically, it consists of a tube with optical fibres surrounded by wires of aluminium-clad steel.

If you have seen OPGW cables, you would have noticed that they run between the tops of high-voltage electricity pylons where the conducting part of the cable bonds the towers to the ground and protects them from lightning strikes while the optical fibres can be used for high-speed communication. This is used by power utilities for their internal communication or sold/leased to third parties as a high-speed fibre connection between cities. The optical fibre functions as an insulator and protects the power transmission line from lightning, noise and cross talk.

There are several advantages that OPGW offer to the building of a resilient power system in the country.

1. OPGW with its rational price structure can help telecom service providers offer communication services to people without any disruption.

2. The aluminium-clad steel wires that form the exterior of the OPGW protect the grid infrastructure and operations.

3. Telecom service providers get the benefit of a readymade plug-and-play network that diminishes their time to market and helps them in saving costs as well.

4. Since these are overhead wires they are easy to lay as there is no need for preparation work like digging, trenching, filling etc which is perfect for marshy, hilly and rocky areas.

5. OPGW does not suffer from the risk of accidental damage caused by repair work to fix roads or to lay water drainage systems.

6. The most important advantage of OPGW is that, unlike underground cables, laying of these wires does not require the power to be switched off which means there is no disruption to the existing users.

7. OPGW offers high-capacity links to the telecom sector which can be used to provide mobile/internet connectivity to customers. This is in addition to the normal activity of power transmission.

8. The optical fibre ground wires are protected from inadvertent contact by the elevation from the ground level.

9. It is convenient to scale up or upgrade data transmission capacity based on need. OPGW has an average lifespan of 40 years.

India needs the development of smart energy management systems that can manage the growing demand of the power infrastructure network. OPGW provides a unique dual solution that offers synergies between optical fibre-based SCADA networks and power distribution grids.

As a communication medium, OPGW scores over buried optical fibre cable as it can be installed at a cheaper cost per kilometre.

As India transforms into an economic powerhouse, it needs to become a power-surplus country. Given the recent thrust on electric vehicles as part of the green initiative, India will need more power to fuel these electric vehicles on the road. 1.32 % of all vehicles sold in 21-22 were electric. Over 7/6 lakh electric vehicles have been registered to date and the numbers are growing. Over 1800 power charging stations have already been set up in the country and will be increased further to meet the rising demand.

There are over 900 million internet and smartphone users in the country. This has led to an increase in the need for fast mobile and internet connectivity. All these link back to the growing need for smooth transmission of power and communication which can be made possible with the use of optical fibre ground wires.

The need of the hour is to roll out optical fibre networks across the length and breadth of the country to protect the power infrastructure while connecting every nook and corner of the country via telecommunications. Smart energy management, storage technology and improved pricing can help to build a resilient power system in the country that will help India meet its renewable energy goals and become a more “powerful” nation.

- Shalin Sheth, Founder, Managing Director, Advait Infratech Limited
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