Successful Endeavours - Electronics Designs That Work!

High Voltage

SWER Lines

In rural distribution of electricity, Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) is used to reduce the cost of wiring by running a single wire for the active and using the Ground (Earth) as the return path. Because these lines run for long distances through sparsely populated regions it isn’t as likely that a fault will be detected or that obvious preventative maintenance issues will be easily seen.

Which is one reason event like the Black Saturday fires can get out of control. No-one knows a fault has occurred until the fire is well established.

And example of a failing insulator leading to a pole top fire.

SWER Line Monitoring

This is why the Victorian Government is keen to find new ways to prevent bush fire events and a new technology developed in Melbourne is leading the way in making this happen. We can share some of this with you because we were engaged to do the primary development work for the product and it is now publicly available information.

IND Technology are a start-up out of RMIT University commercialising a PhD project. It uses very high speed sampling of electrostatic signals on the power lines (250Msps) and using mathematics and atomic clock synchronisation, courtesy of the GPS satellite network, can then determine the location of a fault. Recent detection of the sort of event that could have lead to a bush fire has shown the potential of the product.

EVFD Mid Span Conductor Snap Detected

EVFD Mid Span Conductor Snap Detected

Above shows a single strand of an overhead SWER power line has snapped mid span. Because of the elevated voltages, the sharp end points generate corona discharges and the cable slowly deteriorates until it severs and falls to the ground where it can start a fire.

This is detected by the IND Technology EVFD devices which, in this instance, were solar powered and pole mounted approximately 5km apart.

EVFD Wood pole installation

EVFD Wood pole installation

The detection of a fault like this is a world first and an example of the potential of the technology which can also detect failing insulators, partial discharge and even tree branches rubbing against overhead wires on windy days.


A world-first trial of technology that detects electrical faults before they cause bushfires has had a breakthrough south of Ballarat.#9News |

Posted by 9 News Western Victoria on Wednesday, July 11, 2018

High Technology IoT

And this is a great example of a product that is a very high technology IoT device using the Internet as the communications medium for delivering the data back to the central web services that do the correlations. And it is Designed in Australia, and Made in Australia.

The development of this version of the product was awarded the IoT Innovation Award 2018 for Australia at the recent IoT Impact event at UTS in Sydney.

IoT Innovation Award 2018

IoT Innovation Award 2018

News Resources

potentially disastrous fire prevented by new power line technology

EVFD Pictures

IND Technology SWER Unit

IND Technology SWER Unit

SWER line fraying

SWER line fraying


Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2018 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Electrical Power Distribution

Electricity is essential to the modern world. It is the power source behind the vast majority of modern appliances. And for large quantities of it, we are currently mostly burning things to produce heat to run generators to create AC power to transformers to high voltage power lines to more transformers, low voltage power lines and eventually, homes, businesses and facilities.

AC power distribution has become the dominant way power is distributed because it was easier and more reliable to make big transformers than do DC/DC power conversion. And to reduce heat losses in wires higher voltages at lower currents is a good strategy. This is Electrical Engineering 101 material.

Today however, this has changed. DC/DC power conversion is now routinely used at high voltages and is more efficient than a transformer. So that saves some of the burning which helps reduce carbon emissions and can help with a range of concerns from climate change to pollution.

A good example of this is Basslink which passes power from Tasmania to Victoria at 400kVDC. While there is some criticism that it doesn’t deliver the originally planned 630MW (only goes to 500MW) it is still a good example of this type of technology.

Reducing Losses

There are other options for reducing losses and Power Factor Correction is one of the primary ones. This process add leading power factor capacitive reactance to the distribution grid by putting capacitors in to correct for lagging current due to lagging power factor inductive reactance from the dominant loads in the system such as motors etc. A good example of products that manage this are the ABB CQ900 and CQ930 smart power controllers. Both Australian design and made products. These are networked and Smart Grid enabled.

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller

The other strategy is reduces losses at the loads. So LED lighting, building management systems, better insulation and better business models that make it worth the while of the asset developers to consider the long term energy footprint of running the asset. This is covered very will in Natural Capitalism.

Natural Capitalism

Natural Capitalism

Improving Distribution

In Electricity Grid 2.0 and Global Power Grid we explored what a world electricity grid could look like if we started again now. And High Voltage Direct Current plays a key role as do renewables and storage. However, if it really is a world grid then the sun will always be shining somewhere and when it is winter here is is summer elsewhere so a lot of the issues with variability can be averaged out.


Improving Load Management

Companies like Rectifier Technologies Pacific design and make higher efficiency power supplies for backup power, uninterruptible power supplies and data centers. This is an important way to reduce power losses. It also won them some iAwards.

Rectifier Technologies Pacific

Rectifier Technologies Pacific


Another approach is to micromanage the AC power itself and this is being done by companies like 3DFS that are putting microsecond level load demand management into data centers. They call is Software Defined Electricity. and it works by cleaning up the fluctuating demand distortion of the AC sine wave our Power Distribution Network is meant to be delivering.

3DFS Cleaning Up AC Power

3DFS Cleaning Up AC Power

They have some very advanced ideas on how to go about this and already have products in the market. You can get a good understanding of their overall strategy from the video below.

An even more interesting idea is that of making devices smarter so they work with the grid to manage their own demand so the total process is more efficient overall.

And finally, Low Power Electronics devices can reduce the amount of power needed to achieve a function. Some of the technologies we are working with now allow up to reduce power consumption by 3 orders of magnitude.

So there are lots of ways we can do it better and if we work together and use all the tools available to us then it is likely we will succeed at achieving that. The place to start is knowing it is possible.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2018 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Local versus global electrical power

Up until recently, AC Power Distribution was the most efficient way to move electrical energy about. But right back at the beginning of electricity, it wasn’t obviously the case. Thomas Edison had favoured DC voltage and current distribution but was defeated commercially by almost all other comers because the technology to do AC Voltage Transformation, the transformer, was just easier top make than a DC version based on the technology of the day.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

You can read more about this era in the War of Currents. This was the 1880’s of course. Probably the highest fundamental invention decade so far. But that is for another post.

Modern DC Power Distribution

Wind forward more than 100 years and the technology to transform DC voltage and current, at high efficiency, is mainstream. Of course the incumbent AC infrastructure is wide spread and not easily displaced. But DC is winning ground in new installations.

In Australia, Basslink is connecting Tasmanian power generators to the Victorian electricity grid using HV/DC or High Voltage DC Technology. It is now the technically superior offering.

World Power Grid

And so the new opportunities open up for sharing power across the globe. The current plans are just for grid connect. But if you consider renewable energy as a major contributor, if we have a globally connected grid then the solar power generators sun side can be supplying the night side communities and 12 hours later the other way around. If solar goes global and the grid goes global, then the fluctuating and time of day dependent power generation can be balanced out globally. What we can’t make economic in a single region, can suddenly become overwhelmingly compelling across the globe.

That will require quite a lot of collaboration and market trading beyond what has traditionally been possible, but the pay off would prove worth it. I am going ahead of what we can currently do, but I also believe this is where we have to get to.

Global Power Grid

Global Power Grid

For more information on the current state of play, check out the IEEE article on Let’s Build a Global Power Grid.

And you can be sure we will be doing all we can to support the push.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

What if we could start again

In the days when DC converters didn’t exist, it made sense to base our electrical distribution system on transformers and AC voltage level shifting. It still makes sense to distribute at high voltage where resistive losses in the wires are a smaller issue than they are at lower voltages. But if we were starting again, what would that look like?

The Grid From The Ground Up

A new approach to electricity distribution

A new formula for electrical distribution

IEEE Spectrum have published the results of discussion on just this topic and it caught my eye. We develop products for high voltage distribution including switch gear and power factor correction controllers so I also have personal knowledge of what goes into those. The full article is at The Grid From The Ground Up – What If We Could Do It Again?

A summary of the core issues we could resolve are covered below.

High Voltage Direct Current Transmission

Use High Voltage Direct Current, or HVDC, as the transmission standard. This is now possible whereas 100 years ago it was not. As much as anything this is a legacy issue. The electricity link between Tasmania and Victoria that runs under Bass Straight uses this technology for instance.

High Voltage Direct Current Distribution

HVDC Distribution

Renewables at any level

And we would design it to cope with any level of Renewable Energy sources. This is one of the inhibiting factors for the use of fluctuating energy sources and traditionally it was considered that 8% was the maximum you could have. Germany recently showed this wasn’t the case with a German Renewable Power Contribution of 59%. There is still plenty of work to do but this is an example that some of the old paradigms are not absolute limits after all.

Sources of Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy Sources


Another issue is the robustness or Resilience of the grid. This refers to the ability of the grid to recover from transients and faults. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 showed that a lack of Resilience is a major weakness. If you aren’t familiar with the incident then check out the following short video on what happened and wider implications for not having Resilience.

 Regardless of the source of the issue, we have to be able to quickly isolate faults and not lose complete grid control. A Resilient grid is a must.


This is one of the things needed for Resilience. All generation and transmission facilities should be able to communicate so that the system can be coordinated. This is sometimes referred to as the Smart Grid and a lot of work has been done to create robust, widespread and secure communications to measure and control the operation of the Electricity Grid. One example is DNP3 which is widely used by Power Factor Correction Controllers, Reclosers, Sectionalisers, RTUs and control systems to monitor and manage the Electricity Grid. 

An example of a DNP3 enabled device is the ABB CQ900R Power Factor Correction Controller which for which we received the Industrial Electronics Future Award in 2011. 

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller with DNP3

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2014 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Industrial Electronics

We are back from the Electronics News Future Awards where we were presented with our trophy for the category of Industrial Electronics. Our thanks go to ABB High Voltage Division in Lilydale for allowing our Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development of the CQ900R Smart Controller to be nominated for the Electronics News Future Awards for 2011.

Industrial Electronics Future Award 2011

We are thrilled to have been recognised for our Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development in Industrial Electronics and it shows.
Electronics News Future Awards Industrial Electronics

Future Awards Industrial Electronics Trophy

The Electronics News Future Awards are the premier Electronics Design awards in Australia, a point that was made at the awards ceremony by one of the sponsors, Kontron. Kevin Gomez, Editor of Electronics News, speaking about the winners in each category said “These 6 projects represent some of the most outstanding work being done in Australia today”.
Future Awards Industrial Electronics Trophy

Future Awards Industrial Electronics Trophy

As well as handing out trophies, there were 3 keynote speakers and a roundtable discussion on the future of Australian Electronics Manufacturing. Electronics News are covering the outcome of the discussion in detail in their October magazine. We look forward to their coverage of this very important topic.
Electronics News have recently released profiles of each of the winning entries at Future Awards 2011: The Winners and Senator the Hon Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research; declared that the companies profiled by Electronics News showed that Australia can Win The Innovation Race.
We also appreciate the support from VECCI and ManufactureLink with their coverage of this success as well as the Star News Group.  The articles are at:

And here is what the ABB CQ900R Capacitor Bank Controller for Power Factor Correction looks like:

ABB CQ900R Smart Controller

Safety in High Voltage Power Distribution

My thanks to Tim Heemskerk of ABB High Voltage Division in Lilydale for this clip.  It shows how dangerous High Voltage power can be in Electric Power Transmission Systems and why ABB take so much care in how they handle High Voltage Switching, Power Factor Correction and Fault Isolation and Reclosers in systems operating at these Elevated Voltages.  Be sure to wait for the slow motion replay at the end.  I think these guys might have seen an episode or two of Myth Busters.

For those who don’t recognise them, the rectangular boxes with terminals sticking out the top are High Voltage capacitors used for Power Factor Correction in Power Distribution systems.  They have been charged to 13.8KV and hold 9675J of energy.  The pull cord is used to close the electrical circuit and the capacitor voltage is applied to the watermelon which conducts the current and the energy released causes it to explode rather spectacularly.  Not what you want happening in a real Power Distribution scenario which is why you want Engineers who know what they are doing working on both the Engineering Design and the implementation of these High Voltage Distribution systems.

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years.  For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © 2010  Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.