When power switches or lightning create high voltage currents, power companies view it as a problem. These so-called natural transients have the power to destroy components and cause disturbances along the transmission line.

KTH Electrical Engineering researcher Roya Nikjoo. (Håkan Lindgren)

But Roya Nikjoo went looking for the positive side of natural transients, and she found it. The KTH Electrical Engineering doctoral student at the Swedish Centre for Smart Grids and Energy Storage, SweGRIDS, has developed a system that uses natural transients to measure the wear and tear on power components.

The technique she developed can be thought of as “preventive medicine”. Components can then be replaced or fixed before they themselves cause damage to neighboring equipment. The measurements begin as the signals created when lightning or power switches break an electrical circuit, interrupting the current or diverting it from one conductor to another. Those signals are used as stimuli to obtain the response from power components.

In recent months Nikjoo has been performing the tests with higher voltages that are more akin to what occurs in the field. She also has been investigating all the parameters that can affect the accuracy of the results, such as the cables’ coupling, in the measurement circuit. The method will save power grid operators money in equipment replacements and maintenance, while keeping customers powered up.