Iron Dome
the technology behind the Iron Dome missile defense system will help protect the electricity system in New York State. Pic credit: IDF

The Times of Israel writes that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) is utilising the Iron Dome missile defence technology to stop power outages before they start.

Developed by Israeli firm mPrest, the military technology is being used to prevent unplanned outages.

Says Doron Gover, who is in charge of corporate development at mPrest: “If you prevent an unplanned outage, then there is no outage to speak of.”

NYPA was looking for a partner after the failure of two of NYPA’s largest transformers. The first at the Blenheim-Gilboa Power Project in 2012 and then at the Niagara Power Project in 2014. Repairs to both transformers cost in the region of $5 million.

In 2015 the Israel-US Binational Industrial R&D Foundation (BIRD) provided a $900,000 grant to help NYPA and mPrest develop the software. NYPA provided an additional $975,000 and mPrest about $1.3 million.

As a result, New York State Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped-Storage Power Plant and a 500 MW plant in Queens have an Iron Dome of their own. NYPA plans to roll out the programme to about 50 of its transformers across the state.

Utilising an asset health management application, NYPA can now monitor the health of a transformer using data from the transformer and various sensors, advanced algorithms, historical performance data and lab reports. The system will shut down and reroute power if a problem is detected, saving money, protecting field workers and keeping the lights on.

While the technology is no protection against outages due to extreme weather events, it can help determine what cause the problem.

“It’s easy to determine the kind of failure that happened. Just like an autopsy — where the only way to find out what happened is to cut open the patient, the only way to find out transformer is to open up the transformer. That gives an indication of how to maintain for the future,” says Alan Ettlinger, NYPA’s director for research, technology, development and innovation.