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Maintenance personnel of State Grid Shanghai Company flush the 110KV Yixian substation in Yangpu district.

Shanghai has been buzzing lately and straining the city’s electricity grid.

There are smart systems, drones and specialists that keep a close eye on the city’s power supply day and night.

On one of those scorching days when the mercury rose above 40 degrees Celsius, two electricians in Yangpu district were cooling the substations with water.

Substations play an important role in the electricity generation, transmission and distribution system. The voltages of most substations in Shanghai range from 1 to 500 kilovolts.

Between the power and the consumers are several substations at different voltage levels that distribute the power step by step.

“Using water to cool transformers is the safest way to do this,” said Wang Chenjie, leader of the State Grid Shanghai Company North Branch’s third maintenance team.

“The part we flood with water is the metal outer shell of the transformer, which has a sufficient safety distance from the electrical equipment inside. Even if water accidentally gets into the enclosure, the insulation coatings of the electrical equipment will block rain and wind.”

The maintenance of the electrical appliances is carried out daily by specially trained employees.

Engineers monitor Shanghai’s power grids through a smart system in Yangpu district.

Multiple screens show electrical transmission lines across fields captured by powerful cameras.

At State Grid Shanghai’s Hongyang base in Yangpu, a digital control center equipped with a smart platform monitors all major electrical transmission lines in the city.

“If there is a potential risk on a transmission line, such as a balloon or plastic film from a greenhouse, the system will alert us,” said Qiao Fengxiang, who is in charge of the smart system.

Thousands of high-definition cameras are the “eyes” of the system, identifying potential problems and damage on 220KV (and above) lines.

There are about 5,400 kilometers of 220KV lines in Shanghai.

As soon as a camera detects a potential problem, it alerts the system. Maintenance workers are then sent to fix the problem.

“Normally, the problem can be neutralized within an hour,” Qiao said. “The system recognizes the type of problem and reminds employees how to deal with it.”

The system, debuted in April 2021, is equipped with features such as visual management, drones, distributed risk detection and weather sensors.

“The center has detected 11 major problems this summer, causing safe operation of the power grid and reduced manpower during periods of high temperatures,” said Xie Xiaosong, head of operation and maintenance department of State Grid Shanghai.

Eagle Eye team drones help maintain electrical lines.

Along with the digital center, a team of 76 “eagle eye” drones with fire-breathing and laser functions controlled by 47 “pilots” also help maintain transmission lines throughout the city.

“The drones can use fire or lasers to burn dangerous items on transmission lines such as kites, plastic and balloons,” Qiao said. “They have significantly reduced manpower and ensured the safety of our workers. In the past, workers had to climb ladders to remove the dangerous objects.”

In addition to operating on hot days, the drone team completed full inspections of more than 40 major transmission lines during the city’s two-month lockdown in April and May.

Workers inspect underground substation equipment.

Hongyang Substation, a giant underground substation in Yangpu, is the heart of the city’s electrical system, providing uninterrupted electrical power to the northern part of the city, including Yangpu and Hongkou districts.

It is the first fully underground 500KV smart substation in China and one of two in Shanghai. The primary equipment is equipped with smart online monitoring equipment.

The substation came online in 2018. Together with the other 500KV underground substation in Jing’an District, it provides electricity for the inner city.

Operations and maintenance personnel can monitor the status of substation equipment through a digital system and notify them of problems prior to regular inspections.

“This is like doing extra special inspections with ‘physical examination reports’ of the equipment,” said Pan Zhengyu, who is in charge of the substation. “Unlike in the past, we can find hidden problems more precisely, accurately and quickly, which saves time and work.”

Residents experiencing electricity problems can call the State Grid emergency hotline – 95598.

The Hongyang Underground Substation in Yangpu . District

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