Why Synaptec’s Synchromerger patent is a significant advance for the industry
13 August 2020
Recently, Synaptec was granted patent protection of an invention we’ve named Synchromerger. Both its development and the granting of the patent represent a significant advance for the power industry.
What is the Synchromerger patent?
The title (“Methods and apparatus for making a time-synchronised phasor measurement”), like most patent titles, is not hugely informative. Fundamentally, this invention describes a new and powerful technique for accurately measuring synchrophasors (time-synchronised phasor measurements) over wide geographic areas without requiring any power or time sources at those locations. This technique underpins our Synchromerger product enabling it to combine the functions of phasor measurement units, power quality (PQ) monitoring, and asset condition monitoring in a single system while avoiding a very significant amount of the complexity and cost that are traditionally required.
Why is this invention relevant now?
Globally, TSOs and DSOs are facing increasing network complexity deriving from the energy transition and require better tools for effective system management to maintain and enhance their system resilience. Synchrophasor and PQ measurement infrastructure is known to provide the means for real-time and post event analysis, enhanced reliability of supply and network resilience, increased penetration of renewables and electric vehicles, and network model validation.
However, while these measurement techniques are often applied to solve isolated monitoring challenges, two fundamental factors have limited the roll-out of these techniques at scale: the operational complexity of the supporting telecommunication networking required for timely analysis of such geographically dispersed measurements; and the capital investment required to support it.
What does this mean for the power industry?
Only when high-quality, synchronised data is sufficiently granular and pervasive can the step change in resilience and automation of networks happen. This leap has been held back by the security, cost, and complexity challenges of conventional measurement technologies.
Our new Synchromerger patent addresses this problem by providing a new approach to instrumenting wide areas of electrical networks, delivering measurement at scale without compromising measurement quality or security, and at a cost that is low compared to conventional methods.
How does Synchromerger work?
Synchromerger works by coupling multiple sensors (including for voltage, current, temperature, strain, and vibration) to a single optical fibre. A typical system can support up to 30 single-phase sensors over distances of up to 60 km. An interrogation system at an end of the fibre samples each sensor at up to 35 kHz, and outputs data in a suitable time-stamped format, e.g. as processed synchrophasors or even as high-definition IEC 61850-9-2 continuous point-on-wave data.
The inherent synchronisation of measurements, typically to within 100 ns, greatly simplifies data analysis, as the engineer or data scientist does not need to implement complicated validation of time alignment before starting meaningful analysis of the power system.
Progress in the electrification and decarbonisation of our energy use is rapid and exciting but must be underpinned by advances in secure and scalable instrumentation techniques. Synaptec’s latest patent is enabling a range of new products that will provide unprecedented levels of system visibility and resilience, and will form a platform for new approaches to asset management in T&D and generation systems.