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Safeguarding Electric Infrastructure With Wireless Spark Prevention

January 09, 2023 by Stephanie Leonida

Hitachi Energy has unveiled its digital solution for protecting the electric infrastructure and the environment from devastating wildfires.

Hitachi Energy recently announced the release of its digital solution for wildfire prevention, the Wireless Spark Prevention Unit (SPU) Indicator. The device is intended to help prevent the occurrence of wildfires triggered by power line failures

Hitachi Wireless SPU Indicator

Image used courtesy of Hitachi

Wildfires and the Grid

A natural phenomenon, wildfires can cause devastation to the environment and human populations. The area burned by wildfires is called the “wildfire footprint.” This footprint can be as small as a few acres or as big as 100,000 acres. It all depends on how intense the fire was and how much fuel it had to burn.

The wildfire footprint can be measured in acres and hectares, but it can also be measured in tree cover loss. Tree cover loss refers to the number of trees that died or were lost during a wildfire. Wildfires have been known to destroy entire forests, leaving behind scorched earth with no trees.

Fires and the climate feedback loop
Fires and the climate feedback loop. Image used courtesy of the World Resources Institute Global Forest Watch

According to World Resources Institute records, 2021 was among the most difficult concerning global fire events and habitat loss. In that year, 9.3 million hectares of tree cover were lost at a worldwide level.

In the latest research from Global Forest Watch, the country that appeared to suffer most from tree cover loss was Russia at 2.51 million hectares (Mha), followed by Canada (1.27 Mha), the U.S. (530 thousand hectares, Kha), Brazil (453 Kha), and Australia (298 Kha).

Safeguarding the environment and the electricity Infrastructure could not be more important as the world rallies toward net-zero emissions goals and the energy transition kicks off. 

Wildfires threaten power grid transmission lines, while the lines themselves can also initiate wildfires from a simple spark caused by a line failure. 


Hitachi’s Wireless SPU Indicator

Hitachi has devised a solution to help keep track of the thermal load and current of a protective device known as a surge arrester. 

A surge arrester protects electrical equipment from surges in voltage or current. A surge arrester is used in a power system to protect against overvoltages caused by lightning strikes and switching transients.

The device redirects or discharges surge current, regulating the energy that passes along transmission lines to end consumers.

Surge arresters can be employed for several applications, including protecting utility substations or homes.

A video describing the functionality and benefits of the Wireless SPU Indicator, according to Hitachi. Video used courtesy of Hitachi


Hitachi’s solution, the Wireless SPU Indicator, is intended to enhance the safety of power transmission and improve grid reliability for end consumers. 

The SPU Indicator automatically disconnects the arrestor from the electricity network in a potential thermal overload event. This prevents the occurrence of sparking and arcing, as well as the expulsion of hot particles that could lead to a fire. 

Visual inspection is automated with the status of an SPU delivered in real-time, alerting utility teams when their asset needs replacing to maintain functionality and safety. 


Featured image used courtesy of Adobe Stock