Culture 3 min read

Researchers Develop New Diagnostic Tool to Prevent Wildfires

To prevent wildfires, a researcher developed a diagnostic tool that notifies utility operators if there are unusual changes in electrical currents.

yelantsevv / Shutterstock.com

yelantsevv / Shutterstock.com

An electrical engineering professor at Texas A&M University has developed a tool that could prevent wildfires.

Wildfires have become a severe threat in the United States.

In 2016, there were 65,575 wildfires in the country, according to NIFC. However, the number jumped to 71, 499 in 2017, burning about 10 million acres of land.

In late October of 2019, blazes broke out across California, leading to the evacuation of over 200,000 residents, and the declaration of a state of emergency.

So, it’s not surprising that researchers would be exploring solutions to curb these wildfires. However, that wasn’t B. Don Russell‘s intention when he developed his diagnostic technology.

At the time, the electrical engineering professor was looking to prevent someone from being electrocuted by a live wire. However, wildfire prevention could be the most significant selling point of this technology.

In a statement to the press, Russel said:

“If we can find things when they start to fail, if we can find things that are in the process of degrading before a catastrophic event occurs, such as a downed line that might electrocute someone or a fire starting or even an outage for their customers, that’s kind of the Holy Grail.”

The researcher called the one-of-a-kind tool, Distribution Fault Anticipation. Here’s how it works.

Using Distribution Fault Anticipation to Prevent Wildfires

According to the engineer, the tool detects unusual changes – whether from deteriorating equipment or conditions – in electrical currents. Then, it notifies the utility operator to send a team in.

Also, it can anticipate potential issues in their early stages, sometimes years before they cause an outage or wildfire. That way, operators can pre-emptively shut off power to prevent disasters.

In the past, electric companies had to wait for a failure to occur or for customers to report a spark before acting.

The assumption the utility has to make today is it’s healthy until we get a call that says somebody’s lights (are) out,” Russell said. “By then, the fire’s started, or the outage has happened or the person’s electrocuted.”

The new technology changes all that.

The system is currently undergoing the testing process in California. Also, the Texas A&M professor stated that other countries like New Zealand and Australia would get to test the diagnostic tool too.

Meanwhile, Pedernales Electric Cooperative Inc. has already implemented the system after a successful test that began in 2015.

Read More: Amazon Fires May Cause Andean Glaciers To Melt Faster

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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